New laws in South Carolina, Illinois and Arizona are putting the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number on student ID cards, and one mom says the law could be lifesaving.
Nine years ago, Jenny Morales of Elgin, S.C., lost one of her three children to suicide.
“March 17, 2012. That day will haunt me the rest of my life,” she said.
Morales’ daughter, Tiera Chanelle Hopkins, was 16 years old at the time of her death. She loved dancing and made everyone around her laugh. But she told friends she had thoughts of suicide.
“She cried to them a lot,” Morales said.
Morales said friends eventually told a teacher about Tiera’s thoughts, but the teacher believed the feelings would pass, she said. No one ever told Morales about her daughter’s struggle.
“But if they had, she’d still be here,” Morales said.
Teens like Tiera led South Carolina lawmakers to sign the law last month, requiring the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number to be put on student ID cards for seventh through twelfth graders and college students. Similar moves were also made in Arizona and Illinois this summer. California has required the lifeline to be on student IDs since 2019.
“I think it was a huge win,” Morales said. “We have to have those resources readily available. I think it should be plastered all over the schools.”
“That’s important, infusing that hope that there is someone on the other end of the telephone,” said Jennifer Butler, the program director of the South Carolina Department of Mental Health Office of Suicide Prevention.
Butler helped write the law and says the number of young people age 10 to 19 dying by suicide in South Carolina increased every year from 2015 to 2019. She says the large majority are male.
“The youngest caller to the lifeline this year in South Carolina was 7 years old,” Butler said.
According to the CDC, between 2007 and 2018, the national suicide rate among people aged 10-24 increased 57%. It’s hard to pinpoint why the rate has gone up, but Butler points out that everybody has their own challenges.
“Be the one that reaches out and says ‘help me,’ that’s a sign of courage and a sign of strength,” Butler said.
Both Morales and Butler stressed that no matter what a person is going through, there is always hope.
“Speak with your teens, talk to them, and don’t just talk. Listen,” Morales said.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached by calling 800-273-8255.
For those who don’t want to speak to a counselor, there’s also a national Crisis Text Line available 24/7 by texting “home” to 741741.