President Joseph Biden has officially signed Sandy Hook Promise’s Suicide Training and Awareness Nationally Delivered for Universal Prevention (STANDUP) Act into U.S. law, expanding access to evidence-based suicide prevention training for students in grades 6 through 12 at a time of critical need.
Efforts to address the rising suicide rates among our youth have never been more urgent. Suicide has become the second-leading cause of death among teenagers in the U.S. Supporting more schools in offering suicide prevention training is critical in empowering youth to help address this epidemic.
“The only way we can effectively prevent youth suicide is by recognizing the warning signs and taking action to get help. Equipping students to look out for one another – and themselves – is essential. Youth are more aware of what their peers are going through and often see behavior changes before the adults do. They just need to know when and how to speak up,” said Mark Barden, co-founder and CEO of the Sandy Hook Promise Action Fund and father of Daniel, who was killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting. “We thank Senators Hassan and Ernst, and Representatives Peters and Bilirakis, for their crucial bipartisan leadership in helping save young lives by ensuring cost is not a barrier to prevention education.”
“Young people across New Hampshire are speaking out about the need for more mental health resources and, in the process, they are helping to break down the stigma that too often surrounds mental health,” Senator Maggie Hassan said. “The STANDUP Act is a testament to all the young people in our state who have lifted up this important issue all the way to the White House. This new law will help schools in New Hampshire meet the mental health needs of their students and save lives, and it’s important that it has been signed into law.”
“The tragic and alarming rise in youth suicide in our country is a crisis that deserves immediate action. We can’t fail our kids,” said Senator Joni Ernst. “After working with Democrats and Republicans, today I’m pleased our bipartisan legislation to put evidence-based suicide prevention and awareness training policies into place and to address this crisis head-on is finally law.”
“There is no higher priority than keeping our children safe. By providing high quality screening and prevention training to school staff and peers, we can identify threats before they materialize, and ensure that those who are at risk get the mental health treatment they need, said Rep. Gus Bilirakis. I’ve seen first-hand how effective these programs can be when I visited a high school in Pinellas which has already implemented these best practices. Now that the STANDUP Act is law, we can better implement this training and begin to reverse the troubling trends of youth suicide and violence.”
“Among the alarming mental health challenges facing the nation’s youth, recent trends in youth suicide, self-harm, and violence are cause for particular concern. Now law, our STANDUP Act will help students and educators identify, intervene, and get help for those at risk of hurting themselves or others,” said Rep. Scott Peters. “I thank my congressional partners – Representative Bilirakis and Senators Hassan and Ernst – and Sandy Hook Promise, who helped push this life-saving effort across the finish line. We all want our kids to have a safe, inclusive learning community and know this legislation will help achieve that goal.”
Student activism was also instrumental in gaining passage of this important legislation. In June 2020, Arriana Gross, a high school junior in Covington, Georgia, and a Sandy Hook Promise Youth Advisory Board member testified during the House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing on mental health about the importance of addressing teen suicide and mental wellness.
“In our school, a year doesn’t go by without a student dying by suicide,” she told Committee members. “I’m concerned that youth suicide has become so common that our nation is stuck in a pattern of mourning and accepting these deaths as something that’s normal, instead of seeing them as preventable and tragic.”
The COVID-19 pandemic is exacerbating mental health challenges for young people. Data from Mental Health Americafinds youth aged 11-17 disproportionately experiencing severe depression and anxiety, including a 10% increase in screening for depression and a 14% increase in screening for anxiety.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), since 2010, suicide has been the second-leading cause of death for young Americans ages 10-24. The trend for children aged 10-14 is particularly disturbing, with the number having nearly tripled since 2007.
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