The Idaho Senate Education Committee unanimously passed a proposed bill that would require all public school personnel in the state to receive annual suicide awareness and prevention training, its sponsor, Rep. Caroline Nilsson Troy, R-Genesee, told the Daily News on Monday.
In order to become law, the legislation still needs to pass the full Senate and be signed by the governor.
“People recognize the heartbreak that this is bringing across the state, and anything that we can do to prevent even one more suicide is a gift for all of us,” said Nilsson Troy, a member of the Idaho Council on Suicide Prevention.
The bill is unique in that it requires all public school personnel to learn the warning signs of suicide, Nilsson Troy said.
It passed the House on March 5. Nilsson Troy is confident the bill will pass the Senate as well, though she said Senate Education Committee Chairman Dean Mortimer, R-Idaho Falls, suggested it include a package of trainings that address additional issues such as bullying. Nilsson Troy said she agreed with the proposal, but such a package could take a year to put together.
“We’ve already lost 12 children in the state of Idaho to suicide this school year, and so I don’t want to wait another year,” she said.
Several organizations and individuals have come out in support of the bill since it was introduced to the House in February.
The Associated Students of the University of Idaho Senate passed a resolution last week encouraging Idaho lawmakers to support the legislation.
“This resolution is an attempt to show our support for this important initiative and to add our voice to the statewide conversation about improving the mental health of Idaho’s young people,” ASUI Senate President Pro-Tempore Jordan Kizer wrote Monday in a press release. “Based on the statistics included in this Resolution, it is clear that the State of Idaho should take proactive steps to curb its rates of suicide.”
Those statistics included one from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, which states suicide is the second leading cause of death for Idahoans ages 10 to 44. Also according to the AFSP, 351 people died by suicide in Idaho in 2016.
At the UI, 16 percent of student respondents to the 2017 National College Health Assessment indicated they had “seriously considered suicide” within the past 12 months.
The bill would require the Idaho State Board of Education to consult with the Idaho State Department of Health and Welfare as well as health care stakeholders and suicide prevention experts to develop a list of approved training materials that would provide a model for public school districts across the state.
School districts would then be required to adopt a policy on student suicide prevention that addresses procedures relating to suicide prevention; intervention; and providing counseling or other social care to students after another student’s suicide or attempted suicide.
Moscow School District Superintendent Greg Bailey said his district already requires all of its personnel to undergo some training on bullying, harassment and hostile work environments.
He said not much would change locally were the bill to pass, but the law would bring the issue of suicide to the forefront and ensure districts across the state are conducting similar trainings.
Bailey said the Moscow School District would also like to provide suicide prevention training on its website for community members to access in the future.
“This is not just a school issue,” Bailey said. “It’s a community issue. A national issue as well.”