Responding to a need: State law requires ‘988′ on the back of student IDs

Student Identification Card Suicide Prevention Act was amended in 2021 and became effective July 1
According to Jesse's father, Tony, Jesse was a happy kid who enjoyed playing football,...
According to Jesse's father, Tony, Jesse was a happy kid who enjoyed playing football, wrestling, and participating in church activities.(wmbf news)
Published: Aug. 17, 2022 at 7:13 PM EDT
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MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - On July 16, 2022, “988″ became the new crisis lifeline, nationwide. But two weeks before the change, a new South Carolina specific law went into effect, requiring all schools, that offer grades 7-12, to add “988″ and at least one other crisis resource on the back of school-issued identification cards.

Jesse Robinette didn’t get the chance to learn about “988.” He died by suicide in May of 2019, at just 16 years old.

”Before this, time was the healer of all things… not now. But he’s with me,” said Tony Robinette, Jesse’s dad.

Robinette can no longer see his son’s face, but he can see Jesse’s name on a stone in front of Waccamaw High School in Georgetown County, which dealt with two student suicides during the 2018-2019 school year.

Another permanent reminder exists in tattoo form on Tony’s lower leg: a picture of the father and son’s hands intertwined.

”I had no idea those thoughts were even remotely in his mind because of what happened earlier in the school year. He made the comment that there was nothing in the world that would make me take my life. And 45 days later, he was gone,” said Robinette.

While Tony still grieves Jesse’s loss, his cry for mental health support is loud.

”That’s the thing, is getting the number out there, for where the help is at,” said Robinette.

Help now is as simple as dialing three numbers, something the director of counseling services for Horry County wants every student, teacher and parent to know.

”So many students are unsure of how to address their mental health concerns and are afraid to address their mental health concerns,” said Tonya Pickett.

The fear has eased slightly though over the last few years and Pickett believes the pandemic has played a role in helping get more resources

”It’s always been important, but I think it’s super important now, and it’s normalized. Before, when kids were being seen by a counselor, everyone would think that’s taboo. But now, because everyone has spent the last couple of years struggling to find a sense of normalcy, or new normalcy, then it’s okay,” said Pickett.

And that message made its way all the State House.

“This bill would require institutions of high education and high schools to include the national suicide prevention hotline,” said senator Greg Hembree on the senate floor last April.

The bill was signed into law in May of 2021 and became effective last month.

”Any tools that we get in that tool kit are going to be helpful. Because again, every situation is different, every situation is individualized, and the more resources that we have to offer students, to parents, to those families as a whole is just going to be better,” said Pickett.

The ID cards will vary for each school district. In Horry County, there are four numbers listed – the national suicide prevention lifeline, the suicide and crisis lifeline, the department of mental health mobile crisis number and the national teen dating abuse helpline.

All steps to encourage talking.

”Talking doesn’t hurt anyone. That’s the only thing I can tell people. Dial the number and talk, there’s no harm in it,” said Robinette.

The last time Tony and Jesse talked was through a text message.

”I love you mama bear, I love you pops. And that’s the last thing I heard from him. But that morning, told him I loved him before he went to school. And that was the ironic part. It was a normal morning,” said Robinette.

It still hurts Tony to talk about Jesse, but Tony says it probably always will. His reason for talking about his son now is the same reason he wants other conversations to begin.

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