This week Maryland became the “23rd state to require suicide prevention training for school employees.” Now, “specified school personnel” are required to take training classes in mental health and substance abuse as part of their certificate renewal process. This training will enable them to “understand and respond to youth suicide risk and identify specified resources to help students in crisis.”
This major accomplishment could not have been possible without Linda Diaz, an amazing woman who channeled her grief into effective action. When Ms. Diaz noticed her daughter Lauryn’s withdrawn behavior, she contacted school counselors for assistance. Unfortunately, the counselors were unable to connect with her daughter before she committed suicide. It turns out that Lauryn had been heavily bullied by classmates while many passively watched on. As a result of her daughter’s tragic suicide, Ms. Diaz worked tirelessly to prevent future tragedies by lobbying Maryland legislatures. With the testimonies of students from Montgomery County’s Regional Student Government Association, support of Montgomery County Board of Education, and the support of countless others, Linda Diaz convinced the Maryland General Assembly to pass HB0920 (Lauryn’s Law).
Recently the Netflix show 13 Reasons Why has opened a discussion about depression and teen suicide. I, along with many others, experienced immense frustration from the cruelty and apathy that staff and students at Liberty High showed towards Hannah Baker. What many of us failed to realize is that every time we remain silent or jest about these issues, we are contributing to this epidemic. On a grander scale, you can aid in the fight against teen suicide by holding forums at your school, lobbying your local legislatures, working at a suicide hotline, or donating to organizations like Lauryn’s law. On a smaller scale, you can start by showing unconditional kindness and empathy for those around you, because you never really know what demons other people are fighting.
Elie Wiesel once said “Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim”. If you notice that someone is being bullied ,intervene or comfort the victim. You may be think that you are not influential enough to create change, but even the smallest actions can change a person’s life. In 13 Reasons Why, something as seemingly insignificant as silly illustrations from Clay allowed Hannah to escape the hardships of her day for a couple of minutes. So, please be kind and find the courage to stand up for others.
If you are reading this and feel hopeless and overwhelmed please reach out to a helpline . Remember you are not alone and you will get through your current circumstances.