Support for PA’s “Shawn’s Law” Aims to Prevent Youth Suicide Induced by Bullying

By Eric Failing, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference – 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% increase in tips related to suicide during the 2019-20 school year. Hotline tips related to suicide accounted for 37% of all tips after March 13.

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. The bill, sponsored by state Rep. Dawn Keefer, 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.