Underwood Introduces New Legislation to Address Alarming Suicide Rates Among Children and Young Adults

August 16, 2021
Press Release
The Child Suicide Prevention and Lethal Means Safety Act would invest in educating health care providers in evidence-based youth suicide prevention initiatives

Ensures nurses, doctors, and mental health professionals have the training and resources they need to identify and support young people at risk for suicide to save lives and prevent tragedies 

New video: Highlights the importance of Underwood’s legislation for Illinois families  

WEST CHICAGO— In a press conference today, Congresswoman Lauren Underwood (IL-14) introduced new legislation to address the alarming rates of suicide among children and young adults. Suicide is currently the second leading cause of death for young people ages 10-24, and the COVID-19 pandemic threatens to accelerate these tragic trends. From 2007 to 2017, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that suicide rates among young Americans increased 56 percent.  

Health care providers play a critical role in identifying young people who might be at risk for self-harm or suicide. However, many health care professionals do not receive the training and resources they need to identify and respond to warning signs for suicide among their patients. The Child Suicide Prevention and Lethal Means Safety Act (H.R.5035) would address this by providing evidence-based training on youth suicide prevention to current and future health care professionalsAdditionally, the bill creates a centralized database for that at-risk youth and their family members, medical and nursing schools, and health care professionals can turn to for best practices in lethal means safety and suicide prevention. By equipping health care professionals with the information, education, and training they need to support young people who display warning signs for suicide, wcan expand evidence-based suicide prevention practices like lethal means safety and ensure that at-risk patients are connected with crisis resources, social services, and mental health professionals. 

In a new video, Underwood shares the story of Bill and Patti Hartmann from McHenry, IL who lost their son in 2008 to suicide. Click here to watch the video.  

“Since the start of the pandemic, I have met with students and families across the 14th District of Illinois, and I’ve heard so many tragic stories of young people struggling with new or worsening mental health challenges—even suicidal thoughts. And no matter who I’m talking to—whether it’s a farmer, parent, or a teacher —they have all told me about the need for action to keep our kids safeThat’s why I’m proud to introduce the Child Suicide Prevention and Lethal Means Safety Act,” said Rep. Underwood. My legislation will expand access to evidence-based suicide prevention initiatives in communities like ours so that we can save lives and prevent these tragedies. 

“Lurie Children’s commends Congresswoman Underwood for her outstanding leadership in boldly addressing the mental health crisis facing our children and youth,” stated Dr. Tom Shanley, President and CEO, Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago. "This legislation is vital to increase awareness and provide much needed and critical resources for children’s mental health. We know what is needed and we know what to do. This legislation supports best practices and innovative strategies that can help promote mental wellness for all children and provides resources for children and young people who are suffering and need help."  

“AFSP thanks Congresswoman Underwood for introducing the Child Suicide Prevention and Lethal Means Safety Act to help prevent youth suicide. Voluntary action to make the environment safe from lethal means, including firearms, is an essential component of any effective suicide prevention strategy. This legislation will advance public education and build a comprehensive information center to help health care providers and families identify strategies to help youth at risk,” said Laurel Stine, J.D., M.A., Senior Vice President for Public Policy, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.   

"The American Psychological Association strongly supports the Child Suicide Prevention and Lethal Means Safety Act to address our nation's youth suicide crisis," said Arthur C. Evans Jr., PhD, APA CEO. "Currently, too many of our health care professionals do not receive evidence-based lethal means safety trainings on identifying and responding to warning signs for suicide among patients, especially among younger populations. This vital legislation is an important step forward in protecting our youth and preventing avoidable tragedies."  

"With suicide rates continuing to rise among younger children, it is critical that healthcare professionals are given the trainings they need to spot the warning signs so they can intervene to help save kids’ lives," said Mark Barden, co-founder and managing director of Sandy Hook Promise and father of Daniel, who was killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy. "We thank Congresswoman Underwood for her leadership in introducing the Child Suicide Prevention & Lethal Means Safety Act and commitment to keeping kids safe." 

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, including: 
    • Validated, age-appropriate screening and risk assessment tools to identify young people who may be at high risk of suicide or self-harm; 
    • Best practices in communicating with high-risk young people and their families about lethal means safety and suicide prevention; 
    • Suicide prevention, intervention, and postvention strategies, including safety planning; 
    • Racial and ethnic disparities in suicidality among young people; 
    • State and federal firearm laws that apply to young people and their family members; 
    • Secure gun storage or safety devices and counseling on the use of such devices; and 
    • Referrals for high-risk young people to other providers, social services, or crisis resources. 
  • 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. 

The Child Suicide Prevention and Lethal Means Safety Act is co-led by Representative Kim Schrier, M.D. (WA-08). 

The Child Suicide Prevention and Lethal Means Safety Act has gained support from more than 40 leading health care, suicide prevention, and gun violence prevention organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Hospital Association, and Association of American Medical Colleges. A full list of endorsing organizations can be found here.  

Underwood has launched a behavior health resource page on her website for community members. Visit underwood.house.gov/coronavirus-resource-page/behavioral-health-resources to find support.