It’s hard enough for teenagers to deal with stress and anxiety during “normal” times. It’s even more difficult as they continue to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.
As kids across Oakland County and Michigan return to school – some going in-person for the first time since March 2020 – I’m thankful they will have easier, quicker access to potentially lifesaving resources. It may be more important this year than ever before.
A new law this academic year requires schools that issue student identification cards to include a crisis and suicide prevention hotline number on each card for students in grades 6-12. The law officially takes effect in October, although many districts already are complying – printing phone numbers such as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) or local options on ID cards. The law, originating from legislation I sponsored in the 2019-20 legislative session, also encourages schools to post information about mental health and preventative services around their buildings and on their websites. This law was inspired by the Oakland County family of Nikolai Miller, who died by suicide in June 2019.
Nikolai loved fishing, played in the orchestra, and was a loveable, typical kid in so many ways. He also quietly struggled, and his death broke hearts in our community. It left us wondering what we could do to help prevent similar tragedies in the future. I believe this law – which we call the “Save Our Students” initiative – will save lives. It puts information kids in crisis need at their fingertips – literally – and will raise awareness about trouble signs related to anxiety and depression.
Devoting more resources to mental health and suicide prevention is also a priority in the new school aid budget, approved by the Legislature and signed into law by the governor this summer. The measure provides $53.9 million – an increase of $17 million compared to last year – specifically for school mental health and support services. It’s part of a record-high $17 billion fund for K-12 schools.
Suicide is the second-leading cause of death for those under 25 in Michigan. National Suicide Prevention Week is Sept. 5-11, but I am hopeful the changes made through the “Save Our Students” initiative and the state budget will help prevent tragedies year-round.
Rep. Andrea Schroeder
Represents 43rd District in the Michigan House of Representatives