It is not about suicide — It is about the state replacing parents.
This is about a dangerous state bill and current trend: the state replacing the role of parent.
Each of us has known someone who has committed suicide. Surviving a family member or loved one’s suicide is no doubt one of the worst, most painful experiences possible. Suicide took my brother and I will never be the same; I will forever have the guilt and the burden of knowing I should have done more. Here’s my point: a law won’t bring him back.
When a child is contemplating suicide, she or he needs more love, more parent involvement and more support. Why then, would anyone create a LAW prohibiting parents from knowing their child was suicidal? Why would anyone create a LAW that prohibits parents from knowing their child is grappling a huge problem?
Colorado is considering a law that would allow school children to receive psychotherapy diagnosis and treatment without parent notification or consent. Parents are the first responders. We pack the lunches, we apply the band-aids, we braid the hair, we clap the loudest, we encourage them, we worry about them, we are there for them. Always. We love them.
No law can stop suicide.
While it does mention suicide, this Colorado bill, HB17-1320, doesn’t only apply to suicide; it covers any and all psychotherapy services. The bill allows a minor 10 years of age or older (recently amended to 12 years, as if that makes a difference) to receive outpatient psychotherapy services without the consent or even notification of his or her parent or guardian. The bill states:
“The bill allows a minor 10 years of age or older to receive such outpatient psychotherapy services without the consent of his or her parent or guardian. The licensed mental health professional is immune from civil or criminal liability for providing outpatient psychotherapy services unless he or she acts negligently or outside the scope of his or her practice.”
“Psychotherapy”, OR “PSYCHOTHERAPY SERVICES”, means the treatment, diagnosis, testing, assessment, or counseling in a professional relationship to assist individuals or groups to alleviate mental disorders, understand unconscious or conscious motivation, resolve9 emotional, relationship, or attitudinal conflicts, or modify behaviors that interfere with effective emotional, social, or intellectual functioning. Psychotherapy follows a planned procedure of intervention that takes place on a regular basis, over a period of time, or in the cases of testing, assessment, and brief psychotherapy, psychotherapy can be a single intervention.”
If a school or contractor decides your child needs ADHD medication, you the parent would not be contacted, would have no say. Forget stranger danger. Your child could be talking to people unknown to you-who are making medical decisions for them. Think of all the services, treatments, diagnoses. Should your child be diagnosed and medicated without your consent?
Children can already talk to teachers, clergy, neighbors, family, friends and school counselors–no new law needed. And of course, if a child is abused by their parent, we already have mandatory abuse reporting laws and counselors, agencies like child protective services who can get involved. It makes sense to have a wide safety net of support for children. What doesn’t make sense is a law that prohibits and excludes parents from this process, separates parents from their child when he or she needs them most.
Some interesting data.
California passed a similar law barring parents from consenting to their 12 year old (6th grade) child’s psychotherapy services. This law was also promoted as a way to end child suicide. After the law was passed, the rate of child suicides in California increased.
According to the most recent CDC data available, the suicide rate of 10- 14 year old children in Colorado is zero.
Even if the number was one or fifty, would not informing a parent have PREVENTED any suicide? The results from CA show just the opposite: not including parents increased the suicide rates.
HIPPA is meant to protect the privacy of medical records, but according to the federal Health and Human Services website, HIPPA does not cover medical or mental health information in a child’s education record. Which means, if your child receives mental health counseling through school, or a third party contracted through the school, that information in the student record can potentially be shared.
FERPA is a federal law meant to protect student privacy but FERPA was weakened in 2011 and now has many exemptions and broad definitions. These loopholes allow for student records to be shared under the guise of “educational purpose” or “research” with anyone that the school or education agency authorizes as a “school official”. (See this Washington Post article explaining how Google can be a school official.)
As school based health centers and universal mental health screenings in schools increase, a commission has formed to standardize, measure and rank student’s emotions, teachers are being coached on how to incorporate SEL in the classroom, edtechs like Pearson are buying up online tools to detect ADHD, schools are often billing Medicaid for student care —as these practices are all converging, becoming the norm, one has to wonder who will have access to children’s medical and mental health data? How could this data be used to profile or make decisions about their future? Shouldn’t state and federal laws come up to speed with this new trend and fix the data sharing loopholes, protect children?
Our society today is almost glamorizing suicide. Suicide is not glamour. It is tragic and suicide is never the answer. Having open communication and parents being there for children is more important than ever. Providing a vast network of support, opening as many doors as possible is what is needed. A law excluding parents is wrong. Psychologists agree,
“parents are crucial members of a suicide risk assessment as they often have information critical to making an appropriate assessment of risk, including mental health history, family dynamics, recent traumatic events, and previous suicidal behaviors.”
Leaving parents out is a mistake. This Colorado bill, while likely having good intentions, could have terrible unintended consequences. It is not only irresponsible, unethical, the bill is unconstitutional and inviting a lawsuit.
The US Supreme Court agrees: children belong to their parents, not the state.
Colorado HB17-1320 has passed the Colorado House of Representatives. It is now scheduled to be heard in the State Senate Affairs Committee, where it will hopefully be defeated. Please follow this bill and others like it.
Thank any legislator who respects parents, protects children, and votes NO.
A law won’t prevent suicide. Love just might.