TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV) — In recognition of National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, Indiana State Senators Jon Ford (R-Terre Haute) and Michael Crider (R-Greenfield), in partnership with Harsha Behavioral Center of Terre Haute, have announced a 2021 legislative initiative aimed to help combat suicide and human trafficking. 

Under the proposed legislation, middle- and high-school students would have the National Suicide Prevention and Human Trafficking hotlines added to the back of their student ID’s.

Suicide rates have increased since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the mental health crisis have escalated for significant numbers of Americans. This added information aims to ensure students have access to resources even away from school. 

“Rural healthcare access is a huge topic of discussion; however, rural mental health resources should also be at the forefront of conversations,” noted Senator Ford.  “As a parent, I’ve witnessed firsthand the hurdles and seasons of mental wellbeing, especially in the pre-teen and teenage years. We need to ensure that our students have another additional means of seeking support, even while they are at home.” 

With many students still not attending school in person, they don’t have access to the campus signs reminding them of these services.

“Senator Ford and I have paused and reflected on what our state needs,” Senator Crider said. “After school or during hybrid learning, students don’t always have access to broadband or internet and need a way of contacting the appropriate authorities. This legislation will ensure students have the access to the hotline while on or off campus, leaving them always equipped to help fight against human trafficking.” 

Harsha Behavioral Center, an acute care hospital located in Terre Haute, Indiana, is collaborating with Crider and Ford on the legislation. For over 12 years, Harsha has served individuals most in need of mental health services and provides a place of wellbeing, assistance and safety for some of the most severe mental health cases in Indiana and the surrounding areas. 

“Our entire philosophy is created around providing mental health services and resources to those in need,” states Roopam Harshawat, Harsha CEO. “This proposed legislation is an added step needed to support and provide security not only to our communities’ youth, but parents, as well. We all need to rally behind this.” 

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, each year, one in six youth between the age of 6 to 17 experience a mental health disorder. Nationally, suicide is the second leading cause of death among individuals 10 to 34 and Indiana ranks third out of 36 states in the percentage of students who have seriously considered suicide, according to Indiana Youth Institute. 

Should the legislation pass, schools will be required to begin adopting the initiative in Fall 2021. Understanding that budgets are being reestablished, the legislation is intended to be cost-neutral where only new student ID cards will be required to incorporate the hotline numbers.