SC Gov. signs law requiring suicide prevention on student IDs

Published: Jul. 22, 2021 at 7:52 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 22, 2021 at 8:17 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCSC) - After a tumultuous school year and just weeks before the start of another year of learning during a pandemic, Gov. Henry McMaster signed a bill Thursday he hopes will destigmatize mental health issues.

The Student Identification Card Suicide Prevention Act requires public high schools and all colleges to put the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number and another crisis resource on the back of student ID cards.

While the law doesn’t go into effect until July 2022, some schools are already starting to add those resources to their IDs, according to the SC Department of Mental Health.

“Underlying mental health conditions may have been exacerbated by the isolation of the past school year,” said Director of School Mental Dr. Margaret Meriwether.

High school students Taylor Piver and Laura Summerfield started the Greenville-based teen mental health advocacy group, Teens 4 Hope.

The two were vocal supporters of the bill and feel it can save lives.

“I can say a lot of people I know [who] have come to me about having thoughts about killing themselves... Most of the time they only do it because they don’t have anyone to talk to and they don’t have the resources. They don’t want to do it, but they feel like they have no other options,” Piver said.

She said for a lot of her peers there has been a build-up of feelings of anxiety and depression over the past year.

“Because of COVID we feel really alone and opted to stay home and go completely virtual and a lot of people can’t handle that much time alone without our peers, no one our age, no people to talk to,” Piver said

Summerfield could also think of people who would’ve been saved by the resources and lifelines highlighted in this law. She said a lot of times teenagers don’t see turning to their parents as an option and can end up feeling helpless.

“If a kid doesn’t feel comfortable going to your adult and saying, ‘I need help,’ They can look at their ID and say, ‘I have a phone. I don’t want to tell my parents.’ So, they have a way to ask for help without needing to have judgment from their parents. It’s just an easier way for them to use their resources,” Summerfield said.

She said in her experience, parents are often the last people to know their child is struggling.

“Parents don’t want to think their kids have mental illnesses,” she said. “They want to keep in their heads that their kids are perfect, their kids are ok, in reality, everyone is struggling at least dealing with something in their heads, having these numbers is so important to try and just help one life.”

Bill sponsor Sen. Katrina Shealy, R-Lexington, said the struggles teenagers deal with were top of mind when she was working on this piece of legislation.

“If we can save just one life through this act then it would all be worth it,” Shealy said.

And Piver says the signing law of the law itself may help teenagers.

“It shows that the adults care and with COVID we felt alone and our voices are heard and we are not alone,” she said.

If you or someone you know is looking for help you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800)-273-Talk, can call a SC mobile crisis center at (833)-364-2274, or you can text the Crisis Text Line by texting HOPE4SC to 741-741.

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