On June 26, 2014, AFSP's advocates celebrated legislative wins in two states. In Illinois, Governor Pat Quinn signed HB 5707, which requires school districts to adopt comprehensive anti-bullying policies that will set the standard for school policy from elementary through high school. That same day, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett signed HB 1559, which requires that Pennsylvania schools adopt youth suicide awareness and prevention policies that include recommended resources, methods of prevention and intervention, and methods to help students and staff respond to a suicide attempt.
The significance of these two laws cannot be overstated. "I was immensely proud to be able to tell my young daughter that my many hours volunteering and fundraising have been repaid with legislation that will protect some of those that need it the most and is one more step to making our world a kinder, more respectful, and welcoming place," said Alyssa Relyea, an AFSP Illinois Chapter Board Member.
In Pennsylvania, HB 1559 was celebrated as a move that will save countless lives. “The bill provides our educators with the training they need to help identify at-risk young people and teach their students to do the same. We need to provide kids with knowledge and skills so they know how to reach out for help and support their fellow classmates. This bill will help prevent many tragic deaths by building a community of awareness in every school district in the state of Pennsylvania,” said Cathy Siciliano, AFSP’s Associate Area Director for Philadelphia. By passing legislation that protects students from suicide risk factors like bullying or that requires schools to have a policy in place to increase understanding about suicide, these states have taken important steps toward preventing suicide in children and youth.
We would like to thank all of our advocates and the chapters for the great work they have done in Illinois and Pennsylvania to make these two landmark pieces of legislation possible. By writing letters, making phone calls, talking to reporters, and travelling to meet with representatives in person, your communications and activities are doing the important work of changing the conversation around suicide and mental health. AFSP is fortunate to have such a strong base of grassroots advocates. Together we have the opportunity to have an even greater impact on the legislation necessary to help prevent suicide.