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Kaine & Schatz Introduce Bill to Prevent Youth Suicide

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Tim Kaine, a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, and Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI) introduced legislation to prevent youth suicide, which is the second leading cause of death for people aged 10 to 24. The Child Suicide Prevention and Lethal Means Safety Act would fund suicide prevention initiatives, ensure health care providers receive training to prevent intentional harm, and create a centralized hub to provide safety information to at-risk youth and their support networks.

“In recent years, we’ve seen alarming spikes in anxiety, depression, and other mental health challenges among the nation’s youth,” said Kaine. “We must do more to expand access to mental health care and prevent youth suicide. This bill is critical to doing that by providing more training and resources for youth suicide prevention initiatives.”

Suicide rates among young Americans increased by 52 percent between 2000 and 2021 according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). A June 2021 CDC report found a significant increase in emergency department visits for suicide attempts among adolescents aged 12-17 during the pandemic, including a spike of more than 50 percent among adolescent girls. A critical opportunity to identify young people at risk is in health care settings, but many health care professionals lack the training or resources to do so. This bill prepares health care professionals to identify and respond to warning signs by training them in evidence-based suicide prevention practices like lethal means safety, a practice limiting access to objects that can be used for self-directed violence, and providing funding to connect at-risk patients with crisis resources.

Specifically, the Child Suicide Prevention and Lethal Means Safety Act would:

  • Establish a grant program to provide funding for initiatives that offer youth suicide prevention and lethal means safety education, training, and resources to health care professionals.
  • Establish a grant program to integrate lethal means safety and suicide prevention topics into curricula at health professional schools to ensure that future nurses, doctors, and mental and behavioral health care providers have received the education and training that will allow them to prevent lethal means injuries, deaths, and suicides among their patients.
  • Create a centralized hub to provide important lethal means safety and suicide prevention information to at-risk youth and their family members, health professional schools, and health care providers.

Kaine has championed initiatives to expand access to mental health care for young people. Last year’s government funding bill, which Kaine supported, included his bipartisan legislation to provide grants to human service agencies and nonprofits to develop, maintain, and enhance early intervention mental health programs for children under age 12. He helped pass the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, which increased funding for mental health resources in school. He also cosponsored legislation to expand full-service community schools, which are public schools and districts that bring in wraparound services, including mental health care, to better support students.

In addition to Kaine and Schatz, the legislation is cosponsored by U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and Ron Wyden (D-OR). Companion legislation was introduced in the House of Representatives by U.S. Representatives Lauren Underwood (D-IL-14) and Kim Schrier (D-WA-8).

The Child Suicide Prevention and Lethal Means Safety Act is supported by more than 30 organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Psychological Association, American Public Health Association, American Hospital Association, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, American Academy of Family Physicians, Federation of American Hospitals, Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, SMART Recovery, Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, Illinois Association for Behavioral Health, PA Education Association, Association for Behavioral & Cognitive Therapies, Newtown Action Alliance Foundation, National Association of Social Workers, Association of Maternal & Child Health Programs, Brady: United Against Gun Violence, Everytown for Gun Safety, Sandy Hook Promise, Illinois Chapter of American Academy of Pediatrics, Doc Wayne, American Association of Colleges of Nursing, March for Our Lives, Active Minds, Giffords, Council of Public Health Nursing Organizations, Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments, American Public Health Association – Public Health Nursing Section, Association of Community Health Nursing Educators, Association of Public Health Nurses, National Association of School Nurses, Rural Nurse Organization, and National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners.

Full text of the bill is available here.