A local mom, who lost her son to suicide, wants a law requiring schools to teach students mental health techniques to prevent suicide. She and her daughter made the trip Washington, D.C. to accomplish that mission.
“In Illinois, we’re losing a life to suicide every seven hours,” said Xavier Whitford, a suicide prevention advocate.
Whitford knows first-hand the pain that comes from kids who are struggling with depression, because her son took his life by suicide when he was 19 years old. Now, it’s her mission to help others battling the same issue, a mission which took she and her daughter out to Washington, D.C.
“It was a group of mothers who basically wanted to come and lobby together to talk about suicide prevention for teens in the schools, and ask Congress to mandate that for the schools for students,” she says of her trip and its mission.
Whitford and her group met with Illinois Representative Adam Kinzinger (R-16th) to discuss legislation for mandatory suicide prevention programs in schools. Kinzinger says it’s a message he’s going to continue to raise and suggested they reach out on a state level as well.
“I think this is something that can really gain traction in D.C.,” said Kinzinger. “I think pursuing both tracks is really important in this case. This is a serious issue and one that people are, unfortunately, just becoming more aware of.”
Kinzinger also recognizes that suicide is an issue that plagues kids today.
“Suicide, especially among young people, is a huge issue. Everybody, when they went through school kind, of understands points at which you don’t feel confident and there’s kids that get pushed to a point where they think about committing suicide,” he says.
While it may take time to see legislation passed that would mandate awareness programs in schools for students and staff, Whitford will continue to be a voice.
“Suicide is 90% preventable,” said Whitford. “If we can get people educated on how to respond and how to get help that they need and have people surrounded that understand what to do in a crisis, in a mental health crisis, then we can actually save lives and reduce the amount of lives that we’re losing.”