Lawmakers work across the aisle for suicide prevention

Investigations

HARRISBURG, PA (WHTM) – Last Month, Representative Frank Ryan saw a story on ABC27 News about a York County family raising awareness about suicide assistance websites.

“I mean I was stunned,” said Rep. Ryan. The family said their daughters used an assisted suicide forum to take her own life. In one of her last posts, she asked the forum for advice about a powder poison recipe she found on the website. 

“I didn’t know those types of sites existed, and I’m pretty up on those kind of things, so I was pretty surprised myself that there would actually be a site that would encourage somebody to do it,” said Rep. Ryan.

He says helping someone take their own life is illegal in Pennsylvania, but he plans to update and expand that law.

“What we’re looking at, is what type of additional e-commerce issues that might be related to bring the law up into the 21st century,” said Rep. Ryan.

Pennsylvania’s lawmakers are also working on other bills to prevent suicide. Representative Malcolm Kenyatta is part of the Governors new Suicide Prevention Task Force. He wants the state to take a closer look at the roll social media plays in the issue, as well as the access students have to mental health professionals. 

“We introduced a bill called Phillips Law. It’s going to take a look at mental health professionals in our schools, and really get a handle on our ratio, what is a ratio, how many mental health professionals should we have per student,” said Rep. Kenyatta. 

Rep. Kenyatta and Rep. Ryan say this is not a partisan issue. They both plan to work across the isle to pass suicide prevention legislation.

“If people need help, go and get help. It’s amazing what one kind word can do to somebody,”  said Rep. Ryan. He is working with a handful of committees to write up legislation to outlaw assisted suicide websites. 

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