Indiana lawmakers move forward with teen suicide prevention bill

Politics

INDIANAPOLIS — Data shows one in five Indiana teenagers have seriously considered taking their own life, according to the Indiana Center for Prevention of Youth Abuse and Suicide.

That number is only expected to increase during this pandemic.

“I think this COVID era makes it even worse,” said Senate Bill 19 author State Sen. Jon Ford, of Terre Haute. “Kids are feeling isolated, they are home alone, they are not in their networks of friends, and I’m really concerned about the mental health of our kids.”

Ford’s bill passed out of committee Monday morning 7-2.

The legislation requires schools include the suicide and human trafficking hotlines on any ID’s they issue for grades 6-12. It could expand to higher education through an amendment.

Shelly Brown’s 17-year-old daughter, Heather, tragically took her own life four years ago. She said there were signs, but they were not obvious at the time.

“We didn’t recognize them,” said Brown. “They were more like, you know, you just thought it was just teenage drama.”

Brown wishes she would have asked if her daughter was thinking about suicide before it was too late.

“I was afraid to ask those kind of questions for fear that I would put an idea in their head,” remembered Brown.

Maggie Owens with the Indiana Center for Prevention of Youth Abuse and Suicide said that is a very common perception, but the opposite is true.

“The more you talk about it, the more the language is used, the more comfortable people become to express what they are feeling to express their struggles,”said Owens.

She hopes this law will start or continue that conversation and maybe even save lives in a crisis.

“I think it will help allow them to memorize it,” said Owens.

The bill doesn’t require schools to get student ID’s, but if they have them or get them in the future, they have to put the hotlines on the card if this bill passes.

State Sen. Eric Koch said he voted no because he thinks the same goal could be achieved by simply sending letters urging schools to do it. He doesn’t want to put another mandate on schools. State Sen. Erin Houchin also voted no, agreeing with Koch.

Owens said, what if schools don’t listen to the suggestion?

“A ‘recommendation’ or ‘we encourage you to do this’ doesn’t have that same amount of weight,” said Owens.

Brown hopes lawmakers think of the bigger picture when it comes time to vote on this again.

“If that number on the back of the card just saves one person, that’s one person saved, so, I think that’s good,” said Brown.

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