Texas Lawmakers Consider Suicide Training for School Staff

Jul 2013

In 2011, a law passed requiring the Texas Department of State Health Services and Texas Education Agency to compile a list of suicide prevention programs. Now, the Dallas News reports that another law awaits approval from the governor. The new law would require school districts to train staff members to be alert for the signs of mental illness or suicidal tendencies. If staff members noticed potential problems, they would be required to notify parents or guardians that they suspected an increased suicide risk.

Our Dallas suicide lawyers know that suicide is a major problem among teens and that the more people looking out for signs of suicide, the better the chances that suicide can be prevented. Hopefully, the governor will sign the law requiring suicide prevention training among school staff members. But in the meantime some schools have already begun implementing suicide prevention programs ahead of the law’s passage in order to better protect their students.

Suicide Prevention Programs Aim to Protect Students

After the Texas Department of State Health Services and the Texas Education Agency compiled their list of recommended suicide prevention programs, school districts in the state began adopting the programs that were suggested or began implementing their own program.

Several of these school districts, including Rockwall ISD, are located in North Texas. Unfortunately, despite these policies, two Rockwall students, including a high school freshman and an eighth grader, recently took their own lives.  These deaths, however, do not mean that the existing suicide prevention programs have not been effective at saving other teenagers.

Suicide is a major issue in Texas, with 398 young people between the ages of 15 and 24 dying by suicide in 2010.  During that same year, another 22 young people between the ages of 5 and 14 died by suicide.  This is a high number of youth suicides and even one death is a tragedy for parents and for the community at large.

Taking action to prevent further deaths and to reduce the number of kids who lose their lives is essential and teachers and school professionals who spend a lot of time with kids can provide important assistance in recognizing the signs that something is wrong.

Rep. Garnet Coleman, a sponsor of the current bill that would require staff training, has acknowledged that no program can completely prevent suicides. However, he believes that Texas cannot afford to do nothing and that services for the mentally ill need to be increased along with education about suicide and its risk factors.

Coleman wrote the current bill on staff training in 2011 and indicated that those in state government believe that the best way to attack the high suicide rate is “to have eyes – and more trained eyes.” A requirement that teachers and school staff learn about suicide prevention would provide these additional eyes and could hopefully help to reduce the number of young people who lose their lives before they even really begin.

If you lost a loved  one to suicide, contact the Dallas Law Offices of Skip Simpson, dedicated to holding mental health counselors accountable. Call  214-618-8222.

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