State funds to support suicide prevention training in Colorado schools
- Colorado schools will soon receive a combined total of $400,000 in state funding to train teachers, office personnel and other school employees in suicide prevention strategies, The Denver Post reports.
- The legislation authorizing the funding passed before the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released updated numbers showing that between 1999 and 2016, suicide rates in the state increased by 34.1%.
- Some lawmakers and advocates, however, were pushing for a broader prevention measure that included a provision allowing 12-year-olds to receive therapy without a parent’s consent. The current age when that is allowed in the state is 15.
Mountain states in the U.S., including Colorado, have some of the highest suicide rates in the country, and suicide is the leading cause of death among 10- to 24-year-olds, according to the Colorado Health Institute. But there are variations in the state by county. That’s why the state’s Attorney General’s office is working with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to study why Douglas County, south of Denver, has lower than average youth suicide rates. Focus groups involving parents of high school students as well as school staff members will be conducted in the county, and the results will be compared to those collected in El Paso County, one of the counties with the highest rates.
The recent suicides of public figures, combined with the controversial “13 Reasons Why” series on Netflix, has increased the pressure on schools to implement suicide prevention efforts, including training “gatekeepers” who learn to identify students experiencing distress and refer them to professional help. Other efforts focus on improving school climate so that students feel more connected to each other and giving youth the skills to recognize when a peer is considering harming themselves.
“Combining both these approaches to suicide prevention may be the best we can do at the moment,” Marty Swanbrow Becker, a school psychology professor at Florida State University, wrote in an article for The Brookings Institution. “Schools should openly discuss suicide in a way that makes clear the pain and suffering associated with it, but also in a way that reduces the risk of triggering those most vulnerable.”
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