FRAMINGHAM – Last year, Representative Jack Patrick Lewis (Framingham) filed a bill related to youth suicide prevention, H.516, An Act Relative to
Student Identification Cards. This legislation would require that newly printed Student ID cards include the Suicide Prevention Lifeline number, the Crisis Text Line number, and the local campus security or non-emergency number.
While this bill did not come for a vote this session, in commemoration of National Suicide Prevention Month, Rep. Lewis is making plans to refile this legislation in January.
Every year, September is the month in which allies, advocates, and organizations raise awareness for suicide prevention, launch preventative campaigns, and further connect individuals to resources. Most significantly, Suicide Prevention Month is a launching place to open conversations about mental health and suicide.
While suicide is the 10th leading cause of death for people of all ages in the United States, young people are particularly at risk. According to a study published by the National Center for Health Statistics at the end of last year, suicide was the second leading cause of death for Americans age 15-24, representing a 56% increase in the last decade.
There are significant disparities in these numbers, with LGBTQ+ youth being at greater risk, and Black youth seeing a 73% increase in suicide rates in that same time period.
“We must ensure that every student has the information at their fingertips to get the support and resources they need,” said Representative Lewis. “It can be hard to reach out, especially during these times of limited in-person interactions, which is why these IDs are so essential.”
If passed, this bill would require every school district, as well as public and private higher education institutions, to print the Suicide Prevention Hotline, the Crisis Text Line, and the schools’ campus security or local non-emergency number on the backs of all future student identification cards. That way, everywhere they go, young people will have access to these life-supporting, life-saving resources. The requirement would apply to all public schools,
grades 7 – 12 in Massachusetts.
The current legislation is co-sponsored by a diverse, bi-partisan coalition of 25 legislators.
Similar legislation passed by a unanimous vote in California last year and, most recently, similar bills passed unanimously in Michigan and were made law in Wisconsin.
Schools in Massachusetts, including Ashland High School and St. John’s High School in Shrewsbury, already print crisis hotlines on student IDs and more school districts and universities are considering the change.
“With the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbating a number of the social, mental, and physical risk factors for suicidality, in addition to reducing contact with support networks outside the home, this bill is more pressing than ever,” added Rep. Lewis.