Encouraging someone to die by suicide will be a crime in Kansas. It’s a first step, mom says

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A measure to criminalize the act of encouraging someone in Kansas to die by suicide has been signed into law.

Gov. Laura Kelly signed the measure, HB 2144, on Wednesday.

The new measure would punish someone for “knowingly encouraging another person to commit or attempt suicide when the person knows that such other person has communicated a desire to commit suicide,” the bill read.

Perpetrators could face a felony if the person died, with a conviction carrying 11 to 36 months in prison. In cases where the victim of suicide encouragement does not die, the charge would be a misdemeanor, The Eagle reported.

Jill Janes lost her son, Max Coleman, to suicide in April 2023. The 21-year-old Coleman lived in Wichita and had told his mother that he was struggling with depression.

Janes, who lives in the Houston area, drove to Kansas to find her son had died by suicide. She learned that Coleman was receiving harassing messages encouraging him to take his life.

This led Janes to advocate for change at the Kansas Statehouse so others would not meet the same fate as her son. On Thursday, Janes said this is only the first step in making a change.

“This is a huge win for Kansas and one major leap in the right direction for suicide prevention. The next critical step is that people are made aware,” Janes said. “That’s the only way perceptions change and behavior will be altered, resulting in lives saved.”

Republican Rep. Stephen Owens, who worked to passed the bill, shared his connection to the new measure.

“Having lost a brother to suicide myself, I understand the pain of losing someone close to you who chooses to take their own life,” Owens said in a statement to The Eagle. “These individuals who are contemplating suicide need our support. They need to know there is HOPE that their mental illness is temporary.”

Owens added: “I strongly support criminal penalties for anyone that preys on those that are vulnerable by encouraging them to follow through with ending their lives.”