Carmen Stanger, an investigator with the Idaho Commission on Human Rights, was honored with a 2015 Idaho’s Hometown Hero Medal in October for her inspired work in preventing bullying and suicide.
“I got involved in bully prevention when my 15-year-old daughter, Maddie, passed away from suicide on Feb. 18, 2014, due to depression related to the effects of the bullying she suffered in school,” Stanger said. “My work is two-fold. It focuses on bully prevention and suicide prevention throughout the entire state of Idaho.”
Stanger was recognized for her work and particularly for being instrumental in helping pass the anti-bullying bill HB246, signed into law on April 6, 2015.
Stanger and close friend Julie Zicha, whose daughter endured a similar situation as Stanger’s, formed a grassroots movement of “angel moms and dads” across the state who have lived the loss of a child after being severely bullied.
“We began mobilizing parents whose children had to endure the serious problems of bullying in Idaho,” Stanger said. “We mobilized their children as well and encouraged them to be heard. It worked.”
The bill, introduced by Reps. Ilana Rubel and Patrick McDonald, received a hearing, ultimately passed the House and Senate and was signed into law during the last legislative session. HB246 gives the State Department of Education the ability to establish rules and guidelines for school districts throughout the state, creating more uniformity and consistency when addressing and combating the serious issue of bullying.
“We are so very fortunate for Idaho to have passed this bill since a rule is now forthcoming from the State Department of Education that will address this issue moving forward,” Stanger said. “It will focus on ensuring that districts are making a reasonable effort to prevent harassment, intimidation and bullying of students by requiring definitions of each as well as ensuring that policies and strategies are in place.”
For Stanger, the even bigger picture is the issue of suicide within the state of Idaho. Currently, Idaho is ranked No. six in the nation for suicide. For individuals between the ages of 15 and 24, suicide ranks as the second leading cause of death.
“This is a race Idaho does not want to win,” Stanger said. “When my daughter passed away, it became my immediate goal to work with others in the state to establish an Idaho chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.”
After much hard work and diligence by Stanger and other advocates, the Idaho Chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention was officially chartered on Nov. 7, 2015, with Stanger as the chairperson.
Stanger said she looks forward to many plans for the year ahead including events, programs and working with partner agencies already working on suicide prevention and awareness in Idaho.
“It’s the goal of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention to reduce suicide by 20 percent by the year 2025,” Stanger said. “Working together, I am confident that will happen.”
Idaho’s Hometown Hero Medal is awarded annually to a handful of distinguished citizens for their work in community service, philanthropy and other related honors. This year’s awards were focused on empowering women.
Idaho’s Hometown Hero Medal was founded by Fahim and Naeem Rahim and is sponsored by the JRM Foundation for Humanity, a fund under the not-for-profit organization, the Idaho Community Fund.
View the video of Stanger created by the JRM Foundation here.
Stanger would like to remind everyone if they are having thoughts of self-harm, or know of anyone who is in crisis, please call the Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK.
Idaho Department of Labor