Suicide hotline on back of student ID cards raises awareness


courtesy of Emily Reed

Back of Linganore’s student ID cards.

by Emily Reed, Co-editor-in-chief

From year to year, the process of taking underclassmen pictures stays mostly the same. Students walk down to the auditorium at their assigned time, take a picture, and wait a minute for their student ID to pop out of the machine. However, this year students were greeted with a surprise on the back of their ID cards: 1-800-422-0009, the suicide hotline number .

This decision to put the suicide hotline number on the back of the ID cards is bigger than Victor O’Neill Studios, the company that prints Linganore’s ID cards. J.R., a manager at Victor O’Neill Studios, said, “Adding the suicide hotline to the back of Linganore’s students IDs was done because of Maryland state law.”

In the 2010 Maryland Code, law 7-431 was passed requiring each county board to provide every student with the Maryland Youth Crisis Hotline by either printing it visibly in the school’s handbook or on the back of student ID cards.

Ms. Janet Shipman, Coordinator of School Counseling and Student Support for FCPS, made sure the law was noticed. She said, “I’m a part of a community committee where this issue was brought to our attention, and we made sure the high school principals had the information to make a change.”

Suzi Borg, Division Director of Community Support Services at the Mental Health Association of Frederick, added, “FCPS now knows better so they want to do better.”  Although the hotline is published in the calendar handbook, the ID’s are much more visible, which is what matters in a crisis.

Linganore decided to put the hotline on the back of student IDs, so it’s more readily accessible to students than a notebook. Student IDs are used during school and to get into games.

Shipman said, “Anywhere we can put the hotline, the better.”

For Linganore, there are no disadvantages to putting the suicide hotline on the back of student ID cards. J.R. said, “Cost to Victor O’Neill Studios is minimal, and the schools requiring the hotline on the back of the cards will not be charged extra.”

J.R. foresees this law catching on in other states because the suicide hotline is valuable to protect students’ safety. In fact, the Tempe School District in Arizona recently added the suicide hotline to the back of their student IDs as well. 

Borg and Shipman also want students to know that the suicide hotline isn’t just for when someone is about to commit suicide. Borg said, “We all need additional support, and if somebody needs help, don’t be afraid to call the hotline.”

Shipman adds, “Sometimes it’s easier for teenagers to talk to an adult they don’t know when they’re feeling down and need someone to listen because the adults won’t be judgmental. The hotline is always here so students can get help before it’s too late.”

Borg explained that the Maryland suicide hotlines aren’t advertised widely but they are available on state-run-websites. Also, by using the district specific number on the IDs, students can get help faster.

The state wishes to increase familiarity with the hotline so when students are feeling down, they won’t hesitate to get help. They haven’t seen huge increases in call volume from this change yet, but any amount of students getting the help they need makes the law worth the time spent to create it and for schools to follow it.