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Reps. Bilirakis & Peters Re-introduce Student Suicide Prevention Bill as Cases of Youth Suicide Surge

February 3, 2021
Press Release

MEDIA CONTACT: Summer Blevins

727-232-2921

Reps. Bilirakis & Peters Re-introduce Student Suicide Prevention Bill as Cases of Youth Suicide Surge

The STANDUP Act provides students and schools with evidence-based suicide and threat assessment training

 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Rep. Gus Bilirakis (FL-12) and Rep. Scott Peters (CA-52)  have re-introduced the bipartisan Suicide and Threat Assessment Nationally Dedicated to Universal Prevention (STANDUP) Act to encourage schools to implement evidence-based suicide prevention training for students in grades 6 through 12. The bill was introduced just days after devastating accounts of a rise in student suicides within a Nevada school district swept the nation.

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. 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. Sadly, some communities in my district are among those with the highest suicide rates in our state, and the pandemic has only exacerbated the problem. With training like this, we can help reverse that troubling trend,” said Rep. Bilirakis.

There’s never been a more important time to invest in suicide prevention training for our students. As COVID-19 continues to disrupt our lives, we must remain vigilant in addressing the unique mental health challenges affecting children and teens right now. The STANDUP Act takes a proactive, evidence-based approach by equipping students and educators with the skills they need to identify, intervene and get help for those at risk of harming themselves or others. The crisis of youth suicide requires urgent action, and this bill will ensure students across the country have trained adults and peers looking out for them,” said Rep. Peters.

While studies are ongoing, new reports indicate that COVID-19 has exacerbated children’s and teens’ anxiety, depression and isolation – stressors commonly associated with suicide. Mental Health America recently identified that those 11 through 17 years old are now at higher risk of anxiety and depression. Their summer youth screening revealed a 14 percent increase in youth anxiety and a 10 percent increase in youth depression since their previous report. Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released 2020 data showing a 31 percent increase in mental health-related hospital visits in children aged 12-17 years compared to previous years.

The STANDUP Act of 2021 requires states, schools and Tribes to implement proven policies to prevent suicides in order to receive Project AWARE grants, which promote youth mental health awareness among schools and communities. These policies are vital in stopping school violence by encouraging early prevention, teaching warning signs and giving students, teachers, and administrators the tools they need to react properly to threats before tragedy occurs.

Over 50 national organizations support the STANDUP Act, including Sandy Hook Promise, a national nonprofit founded by family members who lost loved ones in the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in 2012.   “Prior to the pandemic, suicide was already the second-leading cause of death for young people in the United States. Since COVID-19 started, students have become more socially isolated, stressed, and lonely than ever before. It’s critically important to provide suicide prevention training for our students now,” said Mark Barden, co-founder and managing director of Sandy Hook Promise and father of Daniel, who was killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting. “We thank Reps. Scott Peters and Gus Bilirakis for their leadership on this issue and urge more elected officials to join them in support and act fast to save lives. Millions of students nationwide are counting on you.”