Capitol Considerations by Sen. Bill Coleman

Beverly Cantrell - March 18, 2022 6:20 am

Senator Bill Coleman-Ponca City

We passed several bills off the floor Monday and Tuesday this past week. Among those were a couple of mine, including one to allow brewers to import seltzer to make this product in state, and another to standardize how Oklahoma’s two largest online property rental companies pay the state’s lodging tax. Both of these will help boost small businesses and local tourism.

Another one of my bills that I’m so glad to see moving forward is Senate Bill 1307. I wish there wasn’t a need for such legislation, but unfortunately suicide is a sad reality in our state and a growing concern among our youth as it is the second leading cause of death for our children and teens. The measure would remind young people that help is always just a phone call away by putting the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number on student identification cards in public schools serving 7th – 12th graders. While the current number is 1-800-273-8255, by this summer, 988 will be rolled out in Oklahoma to automatically connect callers to this lifesaving line. It will also allow schools the option of printing the Crisis Text Line on ID cards, which can be accessed by texting HOME to 741741.

Young people have so many stressors in today’s world from the regular things we all dealt with like schoolwork, sports, and other extracurricular activities, and perhaps a part-time job, but now they’re bombarded daily by social media’s often unattainable standards, cyber bullying, and being exposed to a world they’re typically not mentally prepared for. Add on to this problems at home with parents’ divorces, addiction, unemployment, or other issues, and it can be insurmountable to a young mind. The pandemic has made everything so much worse. Just think about how stressful the first year of the pandemic was for you as an adult, and perhaps the stresses and anxiety you’ve dealt with since. Now imagine being a young child unable to see their friends, go out in public or live a normal life.

In 2020, 38 Oklahoma youths between the ages of 8 and 17 took their own life, along with another 112 who were 18 to 24 years old. One life lost is too many. That same year, the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) showed that one in four students reported feeling sad or hopeless almost daily for two or more weeks in a row, so much so they stopped doing some of their usual activities. Most young people don’t want to bother their parents or feel uncomfortable sharing their feelings. However, if they have another adult to talk to it can bring about a complete transformation in their thought process and overall mental well-being. Hopefully, this bill will provide that safety net for Oklahoma’s students.

I also wanted to help our college students, who may be away from their parents for the first time in their lives. The independence and rigors of a higher education can be extremely difficult to handle for young folks. SB 1307 would also encourage public and private colleges and universities that issue student ID cards to print the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline telephone number, the Crisis Text Line, and the campus police or security telephone number on their cards. This is not only to help those in mental crisis, but any student in danger.

It may seem like a minor thing to print a phone number on an I.D. but being able to talk to a mental health professional in a moment of crisis can mean the difference between life and death. I want all Oklahoma students to know that they aren’t alone and to be able to access this help if needed.

If you or anyone you know is struggling with mental health issues, please contact or share the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 with them.

You can contact me by calling (405) 521-5581 or emailing [email protected]

 

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