Bill would require schools get involved in suicide prevention

DELAWARE CITY — State legislators on Thursday unveiled a proposal they say would help prevent youth suicide.

Gathered for a news conference, the legislators spoke of the importance of creating practices to keep young men and women safe from self-harm.

House Bill 90 would require all public school employees to receive 90 minutes of suicide prevention training per year and necessitate public schools to develop suicide prevention committees and policies.

The draft bill is sponsored by Rep. Valerie Longhurst, D-Bear.

“As a mother of two young adults, I’m horrified by the thought of a young person taking his or her own life when there are people who care and have the ability and resources to help,” she said in a statement.

“We know that if people are trained and educated to see the warning signs, they can intervene and help a child who is thinking about doing harm.

“That’s what we want to see in our schools,” she added.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is the third leading cause of death among individuals between ages 10 to 24.

Sixteen percent of American high school students contemplated suicide in the past year and 8 percent attempted to kill themselves, a survey claimed.

In 2012, the CDC investigated a rash of youth suicides — 11 in all — in Kent and Sussex counties in a four-month period. A report from the agency found all of the victims had displayed several risk signs, such as depression, substance abuse and stressful life events.

Under the purview of the proposal, schools would have to develop policies for reporting and preventing suicide by Sept. 1, 2016, and include them in their handbooks and online.

“Having a suicide prevention policy and suicide prevention programming in each school along with procedures for how to help a student who is in crisis are essential to a successful prevention program,” James Lafferty, executive director of the Mental Health Association in Delaware, said in a statement.

“Suicide is a major public health problem and our students deserve the best help and care possible when in crisis.

“The policy called for in this bill goes a long way in providing the most effective coordinated response to a student who may be considering suicide.”

Reach the Delaware State News newsroom at newsroom@newszap.com

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