In 2013, Lauryn Santiago took her own life at just 15 years-old. In the months leading up to Lauryn’s death, her mother was aware that something seemed off. Lauryn’s mother, Linda Diaz, reached out to the school and asked for the counselor to set up a meeting with Lauryn. Unfortunately, that meeting never happened, and Lauryn committed suicide.
A Mother’s Sorrow Becomes Her Cause
Diaz believed that if her daughter had that meeting with the counselor, she would have had more resources to battle her suicidal thoughts. After Lauryn’s death, Diaz began to fight for a change in schools. She wanted other students to receive the help that Lauryn needed. In an interview for The Washington Post, Diaz said, “Suicide is preventable, and when the adults interacting with our children are given the knowledge they need to recognize warning signs and act, we can save some of these young lives.”
Assemblies Aren’t Enough
Diaz convinced Lauryn’s school to have a suicide prevention assembly. Then, she contacted school district officials about providing training for teachers. The response time was much slower. Rather than wait, Diaz reached out to lawmakers. In May of 2015, The Maryland State Legislature adopted House Bill 947, or Lauryn’s Law.
HB 947 requires that school counselor receive proper training to spot warning signs of mental illness, trauma, violence or substance abuse. Counselors must also know which resources are appropriate for the student suffering from one of the afflictions listed. Lauryn’s Law lists specific ways for school counselors to gain these skills and knowledge. Another House Bill was passed in 2017. HB 920 requires training for all certified school personnel to help spot signs of mental illness.
Beyond HBs 947 and 920
Linda Diaz continues to fight for other students who struggle with suicidal tendencies. She founded the non-profit organization Lauryn’s Law Inc. This organization advocates for youth with mental illnesses. Their vision is to “Bring community awareness to depression, bullying, and suicide prevention.”
Lauryn’s Law Inc. also provides resources for youth across the United States. These include a Crisis Text Line and links for mental health and substance abuse education. Four passionate advocates make up the board for Lauryn’s Law Inc. Together, they’ll continue the fight for suicide awareness and prevention across the country.
Text by Katherine Polcari