State Sen. Anthony Portantino, whose suicide prevention bill was recently signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown, said people sometimes have spoken openly with him about the tragedy because of his experience dealing with it.
His older brother Michael died of suicide in 2010.
“One of the things that struck me was after the suicide, people came up to me and felt comfortable talking about it,” said Portantino (D-La Cañada Flintridge). And talking about it is something his legislation aims to encourage.
The bill, which requires the telephone number of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline to be printed on student identification cards, was signed on Tuesday.
Because of Senate Bill 972, all public, private and charter schools will have to print the number on the cards of students in grades 7-12, as will colleges for their students.
Portantino said after the death of his brother, people would approach him and want to talk about their mother, son, aunt or uncle.
“People don’t talk about mental health issues and depression like cholesterol and their weight,” Portantino said. “It’s uncomfortable. I’m hoping having this information readily available will help a teen and stimulate a conversation with families.”
Portantino said he had felt confident Brown would sign the legislation, which passed in the Senate with bipartisan support in April and more recently was approved by the Assembly.
“My conversations with his office were positive. It’s not an onerous mandate in that most school districts have printing machines,” Portantino said. “Every school year they print an ID. We didn’t tell them where on the ID to put [the number]. We left that up to the aesthetics of each school.”
The senator has had a busy year. His water-quality bills SB 1422 and SB 1263 are also on Brown’s desk, ready to be signed.
The bills would require more information to be made public about the risks of small pieces of plastic material, called microplastic materials, and thin slices of fiber, called microfibers, to drinking water and the marine environment.
“He has not acted on them yet,” Portantino said on Wednesday morning. “They’re still on his desk. So is SB 328 on the school start time.”
That bill would require high schools and middle schools to begin the school day no earlier than 8:30 a.m.
Portantino said there’s been significant opposition from members of the education community, including the California Teachers Association.
“It’s frustrating, because no one is disputing the science or research or benefits. The opposition is mainly based on adult logistic concerns. I think it’s a very important bill for the future of California. We can improve test scores and cut down on depression. I think those are all goals we can get behind.”