Governor signs law requiring student ID cards to have suicide prevention number

  • Gov. Chris Sununu speaks before signing SB 234, requiring student identification cards to include the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, Wednesday Aug. 3, 2022. Eileen O'Grady—Monitor staff

  • Martha Dickey speaks about SB 234, which has been named the Jason Dickey Suicide Prevention Act in honor of her son, on Wednesday Aug. 3, 2022. Eileen O'Grady—Monitor staff

  • Gov. Chris Sununu signs SB 234, the Jason Dickey Suicide Prevention Act into law on Wednesday. Eileen O’Grady / Monitor staff

  • Paul Dickey shakes Gov. Chris Sununu's hand after the signing of SB 234, requiring student identification cards to include the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. The law has been named the Jason Dickey Suicide Prevention Act, in honor of Paul Dickey's son. Eileen O'Grady—Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 8/3/2022 5:09:02 PM

Martha and Paul Dickey’s son Jason Dickey took his Merrimack Valley High School ID card with him wherever he went, and had it on him the day he died by suicide in 2017, at age 19.

On Wednesday, Gov. Chris Sununu signed the Jason Dickey Suicide Prevention Act, requiring student ID cards to include the phone number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

The new law will impact all schools that currently issue ID cards to students, and is intended to make the number readily available in the bag or wallet of any student who is struggling with mental health, putting a resource literally in their own hands. Sununu said the state will be sending letters to school districts this week, reminding them that the bill has passed, and explaining how to make necessary edits to their fall ID cards.

“You never know when a mental health crisis is going to hit,” Sununu said. “A lot of families might think it’s not going to happen to them. It can happen to anyone, any age, any income, mental health issues do not discriminate. And as we know, especially post-COVID, the issues, especially on children, have been exacerbated. So that means we need to double down on our efforts.”

Martha Dickey had the idea for the legislation, which she pitched to Sen. Ruth Ward, a Stoddard Republican, who became the bill’s primary sponsor. In April, the House Education Committee officially named the bill after Jason. And on Wednesday, Martha and Paul Dickey were on hand to see the bill, named after their son, become a reality.

“It starts at home, with us taking care of and talking to our kids about mental health,” Martha Dickey said. “This, to me, is for the kids to now have the number on hand.”

Martha Dickey was also behind a law passed in 2019, requiring New Hampshire schools to provide suicide prevention training to staff and create policies for responding to student suicides.

Dickey, who volunteers with NAMI, is a member of many support groups and is always reading about suicide prevention legislation in other states, says her advocacy work is far from over and she’s already starting to think of new ideas. She says she feels lucky to live in New Hampshire, where she has easy access to her representatives, as it would be harder to effect change in a larger state.

“I feel like destiny put me here, because I don’t think that access would have been the same to be able to say, ‘I’ve got this great idea, who can we talk to?’ ” Dickey said.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides free and confidential support for people in distress around the clock. As of July, callers can now reach the Lifeline by dialing 988, since the Federal Communications Commission designated the three-digit number for mental health crisis and suicide prevention services nationwide in 2020. The previous toll-free phone number will continue to function as well.

If you or someone you know might be at risk for suicide, The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be contacted anytime by dialing 988 or 1-800-273-8255. 

Eileen O

Eileen O'Grady is a Report for America corps member covering education for the Concord Monitor since spring 2020. O’Grady is the former managing editor of Scope magazine at Northeastern University in Boston, where she reported on social justice issues, community activism, local politics and the COVID-19 pandemic. She is a native Vermonter and worked as a reporter covering local politics for the Shelburne News and the Citizen. Her work has also appeared in The Boston Globe, U.S. News & World Report, The Bay State Banner, and VTDigger. She has a master’s degree in journalism from Northeastern University and a bachelor’s degree in politics and French from Mount Holyoke College, where she served as news editor for the Mount Holyoke News from 2017-2018.

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