New Louisiana law aims to prevent suicide in schools across state

Updated: Aug. 12, 2019 at 10:59 PM CDT
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LAKE CHARLES, La. (KPLC) - A new law is aiming to help middle and high school students across the state who may be suicidal. It’s a move supported by students in the Lake Area and one mom who lost her son to suicide just a few years ago.

“There are some days it feels like it’s been 10 minutes, and there are some days it feels like I’ve lived this way my entire life without him," Olivia Jones said.

Jones lost her 14-year-old son, Channing Hedick, in 2014 to suicide.

“He had good grades, he was in AP, he had plenty of friends, he was on the football team, he went to school dances, there was nothing that really stuck out," Jones said.

His death sparked the student-led ‘Peer Initiative, Leaders of Tomorrow,' or PILOT program, at Sam Houston High School, where Channing was a freshman.

“At Sam Houston, what we do is we go out and we share random acts of kindness, we try to sponsor anti-bullying and suicide prevention awareness and events,” Isabella, the vice president of the PILOT program, said.

The group was created to provide peer to peer counseling at Sam Houston, educating students about suicide prevention efforts and giving them a safe place to talk.

“There’s such a stigma around the word suicide, I honestly had never really thought about suicide, it wasn’t something I knew I had to talk to my son about. We talked about drugs, we talked about drinking, we talked about bullying, I never thought that I would have to talk about suicide. So, I believe that the PILOT program is opening that conversation for our teens," Jones said.

Which is why Jones is even more grateful for this new legislation— in hopes it could save just one child’s life.

“I just want one mama to not have to go through what I go through every day,” Jones said.

It requires all middle and high schools across the state to print the National Suicide Prevention Hotline, and a local number if available, on school I.D. cards.

“Having it printed on IDs makes it not uncomfortable for someone to go and pull it off of a wall or take a picture of the number. But, at their own disposal, at home, at school, anytime they need it it’s there, it’s available," Isabella said.

School ids will also have a crisis text hotline.

“The text line is sponsored by United Way, which is completely separate from the hotline. United Way doesn’t charge anybody anything to to text them, and then they get you the help you need,” Emma, a PILOT program member, said.

“I do think he would have texted somebody. Maybe just a simple ‘I’m having bad thoughts,’ or just a simple line. Just enough to have a professional put it on our radar. Put it on the school’s radar," Jones said.

Along with this, teachers will now be required to go through two hours of suicide awareness guidelines during in-service training— including how to spot abuse and harassment, and how to respond to a crisis situation.

But, Jones reiterates the importance of parents talking to their children also.

“I think you need to put it right up there with your sex ed, your drug conversations. I think every parent needs to have that hard, hard conversation, but, your child’s life is worth that hard conversation," Jones said.

School districts across the state have until the 2020-2021 school year to print these numbers on IDs.

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