Naperville Teens Help Pass Bill
A group of Naperville teens were able to help get a bill passed in both the Illinois House and Senate. House Bill 1778, or Beyond Charity Law, aims to make it mandatory that schools in the state provide suicide prevention lines on student identification cards.
Upcoming Naperville Central senior, Aparna Ramakrishnan, spearheaded the bill with her peers through her non-profit, Beyond Charity. They wanted to show students its ok to talk about mental health struggles and that there’s someone to turn to in a time of need.
“Showing that support to students who may feel very vulnerable or unsupported is so important and I feel like this can truly change people’s lives,” said Ramakrishnan.
The bill now sits on Governor J.B. Pritzker’s desk to be signed. If he does, contact information for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, the Crisis Text Line, and either the Safe2Help Illinois helpline, a local suicide prevention hotline, or both would be put on the back of ID’s for students in seventh through twelfth grade.
Ramakrishnan said she noticed a need for this after seeing her older sister’s college ID, which had multiple lines listed.
“And I looked at my ID card and there was nothing on it. All I had was my name and picture and my identification number,” said Ramakrishnan. “I was like, ‘this is such a waste of space. Why don’t we use this to promote mental health awareness and give students resources that they would need on a daily basis?’”
She and her peers reached out to hundreds of legislators. Eventually Representatives Michelle Mussman and Janet Yang Rohr showed their support and helped the teens draft the bill.
HB 1778 passed the Illinois Senate in May. Ramakrishnan said she doesn’t yet know if and when the governor will sign the bill.
In the meantime, Beyond Charity is helping to raise awareness about mental health. Ramakrishman founded the non-profit last year and now runs it with other Naperville Central students.
“Ever since I was young I was always hearing about different teens struggling with their mental health. I’ve seen a lot of my friends struggle as well, and I personally have struggled keeping calm in the face of stress as well as the transition to COVID was very tough on people,” said Ramakrishman. “So I saw a need for support and to show people that it’s ok not to be ok and other friends, family, and community are always there to support you.”
Beyond Charity provides free mental health education presentations to kids and adolescents worldwide to provide different types of mental health information and coping strategies.
Ramakrishman said the long-term goals for Beyond Charity are to provide presentations for parents so they can understand what their kids are going through, as well as create a mental health curriculum for schools.
Naperville News 17’s Aysha Ashley Househ reports.
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