House Passes Rep. Peters’ Bill to Curb School Violence, Prevent Youth Suicide
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, the House approved the bipartisan Suicide and Threat Assessment Nationally Dedicated to Universal Prevention (STANDUP) Act introduced by Rep. Scott Peters (CA-52) and Rep. Gus Bilirakis (FL-12) to encourage schools to implement suicide prevention training for students. The bill applies to grades 6 through 12 and would require states, schools, and Tribes to implement commonsense, evidence-based policies to prevent suicides to receive Project AWARE grants, which boost youth mental health awareness among schools and communities.
“By passing the STANDUP Act this Mental Health Awareness Month, we’ve taken action to strengthen the health and safety of our youth,” said Rep. Peters. “COVID-19 has taken an enormous toll on the mental well-being of young people. A return to the classroom means that we must prepare schools to meet their students’ growing mental health needs. 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.”
“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.
“I can’t think of a better way to recognize Mental Health Awareness Month than the House of Representatives voting to expand access to evidence-based suicide prevention programs for young people. It’s more important than ever to prioritize this kind of training,” 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 are deeply grateful to the bipartisan sponsors of the STANDUP Act—Representatives Scott Peters (D-CA), Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), Ted Deutch (D-FL) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA)— who championed this life-saving legislation.”
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, suicide is the second leading cause of death in people ages 10-24, with cases of suicide among Black and other minority youth notably rising in recent years. Reports also indicate the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated children’s and teens’ anxiety, depression, and isolation, which are stressors commonly associated with suicide.
Adolescent suicide and violence can be prevented: 70 percent of people who die by suicide tell someone their plans or demonstrate warning signs, and 80 percent of school shooters tell someone their plans prior to acting. The STANDUP Act’s policies are key to stopping school violence and youth suicide by encouraging early prevention, teaching children and adults to heed warning signs, and giving educators and administrators the tools they need to stop violence before it happens.
In November 2019, Rep. Peters visited Bernardo Heights Middle School in Rancho Bernardo to meet with student advocates for the school’s Students Against Violence Everywhere (SAVE) Promise Club and the Mental Health Awareness Club. The students shared their experiences involving the “Start with Hello” inclusivity project and “See Something, Say Something” prevention program, initiatives similar to those the STANDUP Act would seek to expand to schools across the country.
Along with the STANDUP Act, the House passed ten other bills that bolster mental health resources to recognize Mental Health Awareness Month. All of the bills are headed to the Senate.