LOS ANGELES – The ID cards for students in 7th to 12th grade in California now have imprinted on them the suicide prevention hot line number in an effort to combat the second most prevalent cause of death among US residents between 10 and 24 years of age.
The measure is part of state law SB 972, which requires all California’s schools, including private and charter schools, to place on IDs for students in grades 7-12 the number of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
The law, which entered into force during the new school year, also authorizes educational institutions to print on the ID card the telephone number of the local police of the security office on the student’s campus, along with a the direct telephone number for suicide prevention, among others.
“This is important as during the last 3 years consistent with national trends TUSD has seen a significant increase in suicidal ideations among youth,” Gil Ogden, the director of student services in the Turlock Unified School District (TUSD), told EFE in an interview.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide was the second most frequent cause of death among people between 10-34 in 2017.
“This is troubling as we are seeing a large increase in the number of students being referred for suicidal ideations even in the elementary grade levels,” Ogden said.
The school district located in California’s Central Valley has 14,000 students, of whom 6,000 will receive the new ID cards, which also have the number of the Stanislaus County mental health office and a number to report sex trafficking.
One in every four residents of Turlock is Hispanic.
Not all parents in the TUSD took the news about the new ID cards well, and Ogden said that he had heard about “mixed reactions” to the new law, especially on the social networks.
“Some parents felt that by putting the information on the card that it would but the idea of suicide in the students’ mind,” he said.
“This is a myth. And we want students and parents to know that if they suspect a person is thinking about suicide, that they directly ask them,” he added.
Teresa Rodriguez, the mother of a Turlock student who has the new ID card, said that the move caused concern because it was the first time that the issue of suicide had been directly addressed in the family home.
“It’s something that in Mexico they don’t teach us to talk about. For me, it’s something new,” the immigrant mother of two said.
Bertha Loaiza, known as “the miracle girl” after surviving a fall of almost 75 meters (246 feet) when her mother jumped with her in her arms from a San Diego bridge, suicide is an issue that must not remain hidden.
“There are ways to talk about it with children and to educate them on this matter, because we need a lot in the area of suicide prevention among teens,” Loaiza told EFE, who spoke about her own story and the issue of suicide with her children ages 7 and 11.
The 37-year-old Californian is taking part in the “Encuentra que decir” (Find what to say) campaign mounted by the Kaiser Permanente organization, where Loaiza tells about how her mother’s suicide on Aug. 4, 1985, affected her.
“It’s necessary to face it and understand that this is happening to our kids and to Latinos,” said Loaiza, whose mother was 24 when she killed herself.
According to CDC figures, since 1999 the suicide rate has risen by about 30 percent nationwide, particularly among 10-17-year-olds.
Between 2006 and 2016 the suicide rate among people in this age group increased by 70 percent, according to the agency.
In California, it’s obligatory for students to carry their student ID cards while they are at school.
Ogden said that “As a licensed educational psychologist, I want parents and students to know, that it’s OK to ask a friend or family member if they are thinking of suicide.”
“And to always follow-up with a referral to a mental health professional,” he added.