September is Suicide Prevention Month. Pass this important bill — and save lives | Opinion

Jackie Bieber, of York County, whose daughter, Shawn Shatto, 25, died by suicide earlier this year, speaks during a news conference in the Pa. Capitol rotunda on 9/19/19 (Capital-Star photo by John L. Micek)

By Eric Failing

Suicide is never a comfortable issue to discuss, but now is one of those times to have that talk. The pandemic has contributed to a mental health crisis in our communities, as students struggle to adapt to restricted social activities.

The state’s Safe2Say hotline found an 18 percent increase in tips related to suicide during the 2019-20 school year. Hotline tips related to suicide accounted for 37 percent of all tips after March 13.

LEARN MORE: If you’re struggling, and you need help, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255

Horrifically, encouraging suicide by bullying is adding to this problem. To combat this, the Pennsylvania General Assembly is considering legislation, known as Shawn’s Law, which would increase criminal penalties for anyone who causes or aides a minor or someone with an intellectual disability to take their own life.

They lost their daughter to suicide. Now these Pa. parents are looking for justice | John L. Micek

The bill, sponsored by state Rep. Dawn Keefer, R-York, is tragically stalled in the Senate, and there are few session days left to pass this important bill.

This legislation is desperately needed to prevent the continued preying on troubled youth and the mentally challenged.

Even in an election year when our politics are polarized, this is nonpartisan legislation we can all get behind.

Eric Failing is the executive director of the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference. He writes from Harrisburg.