States To Require Suicide Prevention Lifeline Number Printed on Student ID Cards

Photo: (Photo : OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images)

South Carolina, Illinois, and Arizona are just some of the states that have enacted laws that will make it legal to print the Suicide Prevention Lifeline number on student ID cards. The move has the support of parents amid the rising cases of teen suicides in the country.

One mother, Jenny Morales, believes that having the Suicide Prevention Lifeline number - 1 (800) 273-TALK (8255) - on the kids' ID cards will be lifesaving. The mother knows the intense pain of losing a child as her 16-year-old daughter, Tiera, took her own life.

Tierra had told friends she was struggling with thoughts of suicide but didn't have an adult to talk to about her feelings. Morales didn't know that her daughter needed help, and even as her friends told a teacher, the notion was brushed off and forgotten until it happened.

So, when South Carolina lawmakers succeeded in passing the law that would make the Suicide Prevention Lifeline number visible on the student ID cards for seventh to 12th grade, the mother breathed a sigh of relief and said that it's a huge win for families and the state. She also noted that the number should be advertised all over high schools.

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Someone is Listening

Jennifer Butler of the state's Department of Mental Health said that it's important for teens to know that there is someone listening to them and that it can help lessen the stigma that prevents them from talking about their struggles. Butler was instrumental in putting together South Carolina's law about the suicide hotline number after noticing a rise in suicide cases among the young.

Taylor Piver, a junior high school student who advocated for the bill, also said that putting the number on the kids' IDs sends out a message that someone cares for them. She has been helping raise awareness for suicide prevention as a member of Teens 4 Hope.

In Illinois, the law to print the number on school IDs was passed in July and will take effect immediately. One of the bill's sponsors, Senator Scott Bennett, said that it's a key to early intervention in saving lives.

Arizona has also passed the law in the same month, with Tucson Unified School District leading the rollout of the ID prints.

"Having this availability right there on their ID, that they're with all day, is going to make a big difference," said Justin Freitag, a high school counselor.

Suspected Suicide Attempts Uptick

In June 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published new data indicating that emergency room visits for suspected suicide attempts rose to 50 percent from February 2021 to March 2021 compared to the previous year. Most of the victims have been kids between the ages of 12 to 17 years old. In May 2020, just as the pandemic was spreading and killing millions in the U.S., the attempted suicide rate for 12 to 17-year-old girls rose to 26.2 percent.

By June 2020, at least 25 percent of the kids in the survey admitted that they'd had suicidal thoughts within the last 30 days. The experts said that the pandemic's disruption and need for social distancing or staying at home contributed to this worrying trend.

National Syndromic Surveillance conducted the survey across 49 states. However, the study authors said that the actual numbers might be underrepresented because many teenagers are scared to go to the emergency room or a mental health professional for fear of COVID-19 transmissions.

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