Student IDs having suicide number a legacy for Boscawen man

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Aug. 3—CONCORD — All student IDs in New Hampshire must carry the national suicide hotline number thanks to a law that Gov. Chris Sununu signed Wednesday in memory of a 19-year-old Boscawen man.

Martha and Paul Dickey made this reform their mission to honor their son, Jason, who took his own life after "struggling with a breakup," his mother said.

When their "baby" of four children left this world on Sept. 14, 2017, the Dickeys started pushing to convince the Legislature to create what became the Jason Dickey Suicide Prevention Act (SB 234).

"This was a fitting legacy for him. He would be very proud of this because he was interested in politics. I'm always grateful he was able to vote in his first election," Martha Dickey said during an interview.

Sununu said the Dickeys were working on "multiple items" to help families dealing with crisis.

"Martha and Paul have channeled their tragedy into action, and we are grateful for their work," Sununu said.

On Wednesday, Sununu wore the purple and turquoise ribbon that promotes suicide prevention awareness.

The bill does not require any school district to issue student IDs, but ensures any that do must place on the back of the card the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255 or 988.

The national 988 number led to the requirement that all New Hampshire residents must use the 603 area code to call anyone in state.

"We didn't want to create an unfunded mandate or an additional burden on schools," Martha Dickey said.

Most of the staff of the New Hampshire Community Loan Fund turned out for the State House signing ceremony since Martha Dickey works there.

Sununu said the Department of Education is sending a letter to all school districts with simple instructions about the law and the benefits of student IDs.

"I'm happy to say most districts do issue these student IDs," Sununu said.

All students in public higher education already get them and the University of New Hampshire has already affixed the 998 number to theirs, Mrs. Dickey said.

Sen. Ruth Ward, R-Stoddard, authored the bill.

"We have seen how a suicide affects the whole family and the friends of that child," Ward said. "This was such a powerful thing we could do."

Sununu: Other states may follow suit

Rep. Joe Alexander, R-Goffstown, helped move the bill through the House.

"If it saves one life, it's so worth it. Government doesn't do things right 100% of the time, but this is a simple thing we can do to try and make a difference."

Sununu urged the media to help the state spread the word about the new hotline and this link to the student ID.

"Every student and family should have equal opportunity to access lifesaving services, and this bill moves us forward," Sununu said.

"New Hampshire is tackling our mental health challenges, and we are adding more and more investments every day," the governor said. Sununu said he's spoken about this bill with governors from other states.

"I'm so proud we are once again leading the way and we have Martha and Paul to thank for their tireless activism on it," Sununu added.

klandrigan@unionleader.com