Last week in New Hampshire, Governor Chris Sununu signed a bill requiring schools to develop suicide prevention policies. This comes at a time when the nation’s suicide rate is growing at an alarming rate. According to the American Psychological Association, the suicide rate has grown 30 % from 2000-2016, making it the tenth leading cause of death in the country.
New Hampshire is experiencing this crisis on a magnified scale. The Concord Monitor reports the state’s suicides rate was 50 % higher than the national average in 2018. The bill is driven by parents who have lost children to suicide and sponsored by Representative Gates Lucas.
Lucas felt compelled to support legislation that has long been needed, telling Parentology, “Suicide prevention has been something that legislators and Granite State families have been trying to get enacted for years. The governor made this one of his priorities in his inaugural speech, and I felt compelled to help in my capacity as a state representative by introducing legislation.”
The bill will provide teachers and schools with training to help them assess students who might be at risk and offer help. Teachers, staff and school volunteers will be required to receive at least two hours of suicide training each year. School teachers and faculty are often spending the most time with teens. They are able to notice changes in students’ demeanor or social interactions, oftentimes before parents.
The hope is that with more education and training, faculty and staff will be empowered to identify and reach out to students at risk. While educators are often tasked with so many things, Lucas feels they will be receptive, “Our teachers already have a lot of important responsibilities, but I think educating teachers about suicide will put them in the best situation to look after the safety of kids in New Hampshire.”
While this bill is an important step, Lucas says it is only a part of the solution, “The ultimate hope is that our teachers will be well educated to deal with the signs of suicide. This is not the final solution, but an important first step for New Hampshire in dealing with the rise in suicide among our youth.”
New Hampshire’s legislation comes as the awareness around mental health issues builds throughout the US. Lucas hopes the bill will open the door for addressing larger issues, “This is definitely something that I hope other states will emulate. I know many already have and it’s an issue that doesn’t stop at New Hampshire’s border.”