Lawmakers move to prevent youth suicide in schools

Proposed bill would implement a two-year suicide prevention program

  • Saturday, February 9, 2019 1:30am
  • News

By Madeline Coats

WNPA Olympia News Bureau

A bipartisan group of 22 representatives is working to improve crisis planning in Washington schools to prevent youth suicides.

“I know for a fact I am not the only one that considers suicide every single day,” Maverick Mendoza, an Issaquah High School student, said.

The 17-year-old has suffered from major depressive disorder and severe anxiety for multiple years. His most-recent suicide attempt was two weeks ago.

House Bill 1221 aims to implement a two-year program for mental health promotion and suicide prevention in schools.

The bill requires the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction to select up to 12 high schools east of the Cascade mountains to participate in the pilot program.

The Washington State Institute for Public Policy would report to the governor, the legislature and the state schools superintendent with an evaluation of the program by January of 2023 to compare those outcomes with information obtained from high schools west of the Cascades.

Forefront Suicide Prevention, a social impact center at the University of Washington School of Social Work, is taking sustainable action toward preventing suicide.

According to the bill, Forefront must work with the selected schools to provide best practices related to suicide prevention.

Dr. Jennifer Stuber, director of Forefront suicide prevention, lost her husband to suicide in 2011.

“I think about our snow day today and the fact that we were all notified in the school about what to do immediately – it’s all systemized,” Stuber said. But, “We have virtually no investment in youth suicide in the state.”

HB 1221 places emphasis on the need for school-based approaches to overcome the urgent health problem of youth suicide. Mental health issues are one of the strongest predictors among adolescents for engaging in self-harm and suicidal behavior, the bill states.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the suicide rate among 10- to 17-year-olds increased by 70 percent between 2006 and 2016. Suicide is the second-leading cause of death for youths ages 10 to 19, as referenced by the centers.

“We have an epidemic in our state,” said Rep. Tina Orwall, D-Des Moines, the primary sponsor of the bill.

“We are losing two to three young adults every week to suicide,” Orwall said.

According to the bill, one in five adolescents who are attending school have a diagnosable mental health disorder and only half actually seek help from professional services. Symptoms of an underlying mental health disorder include feelings of depression, anxiety, hopelessness and distress.

“Our high school specifically has about 2,400 students. If you divide that by only five counselors, that’s nearly 500 students per counselor,” Mendoza said. “I highly doubt that my own counselor would remember the name associated with my face.”

More in News

Everyone’s ‘pard’: Former logger, museum-bar owner known as workers’ friend

Everyone was “pard” — as in pardner — to Gary Cecil Blevins,… Continue reading

Senate passes bill to remove the personal exemption to the measles vaccine

Lawmakers aim to stop the ongoing measles outbreak with passage of bill

Gov. Inslee signs felon voting rights legislation

Bill clearly outlines process for felons to regain their voting rights

Daylight saving time year round passes Senate

Legislation to make daylight saving time the year-round standard passed the Senate… Continue reading

Creamery pulls milk from stores after E. coli found in sample

For a week now, raw milk from Dungeness Valley Creamery has been… Continue reading

20-30 handguns stolen after loader is used to break through gate at FREDS Guns

Business owner: ‘They tried to tear down my building to commit this crime’

Olympic Medical Center breaks ground on cancer center expansion

Strategic planning set The Olympic Medical Center Board of Commissioners will get… Continue reading

Heralded for honoring history: Jamestown S’Klallam Tribal Library is finalist for national award

Who: Jamestown S’Klallam Tribal Library What: National finalist Where: 1070 Old Blyn… Continue reading

Most Read