Anything we do to reduce college suicides can’t be a bad move, but at the same time when our elected leaders pass a law like House Bill (HB) 28 that “seeks to stop college suicides,”(1) it’s fair for citizens to examine its potential effectiveness and also the motives of those who support the bill, which probably include the entire General Assembly. Whether or not HB 28 has a meaningful impact on preventing suicides we can’t imagine any politician who would not vote for a law that suggests it could put an end to that pain and suffering. If he opposed it, in the least it would give his opponent in the next election a golden opportunity for a negative campaign ad. However, more important questions are, “What impact would House Bill 28 have on stopping college suicides?”; “Are our elected officials serious about stopping college suicides?”, and “Are there other things government can do that would be more effective?”
Basically HB 28 mandates that all higher education institutions develop policies and procedures that “provide all incoming students with information about mental health topics, as well as available mental health services and other support services, such as student-run organizations for individuals at risk or affected by suicide.”(1) In essence HB 28 criminalizes any institution of higher learning that does not inform incoming students there are intervention programs available for students with suicidal thoughts. It is mandating that college presidents and staff do something that they should be doing anyway. It reminds us of a law introduced a while back by State Senator Steve Austria before District 7 voters sent him to Congress. In all his brilliance, Mr. Austria thought it was a good idea to increase the penalty for children who throw rocks from overpasses onto oncoming vehicles and mandate that schools add programs to insure their students understand it is wrong to throw rocks from overpasses. Like HB 28, Austria’s law is another government mandate with no funding attached. It is the nanny state at its worst, mandating that supposedly educated college presidents and staff do something that makes common sense in the first place. To be sure, HB 28 has only two purposes; the first is to help politicians feel good about themselves without raising taxes; and second, to convince voters that no other elected official can protect them from negative consequences like they can.
We’ll never know if HB 28 will stop even one suicide, but we do have evidence of a grass roots program in Beavercreek, Ohio called “Project Brite Star” that brings peer listeners and professional counselors together to proactively engage teens at risk. Project Brite Star is a local chapter of the international Yellow Ribbon Suicide Prevention Program which offers assistance infinitely more likely to prevent teen suicides than HB 28. A problem with Project Brite Star is it operates entirely by volunteers on a shoestring budget. Through the JobsOhio and Third Frontier programs Governor Kasich and the state legislature think nothing of transferring hundreds of millions of tax dollars to elitist economic development consultants including those at the Dayton Development Coalition. If our elected officials were as serious about preventing teen suicides as they are about economic development and transferring taxpayer wealth to political insiders, they would allocate some of that money for programs like Project Brite Star.
- Michael Pitman, Bill seeks to stop college suicides, Dayton Daily News, Feb. 22, 2015, Page B1.