LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Schools need suicide prevention training
To the editor, Like most Minnesotans, I like to believe that, despite this awful winter weather, we have an incredible state. We have the Mall of America, beautiful scenery and we are even hosting the Super Bowl this year. However, I have come to...
To the editor,
Like most Minnesotans, I like to believe that, despite this awful winter weather, we have an incredible state. We have the Mall of America, beautiful scenery and we are even hosting the Super Bowl this year. However, I have come to realize that we have a great flaw that needs to be addressed.
Currently, Minnesota does not require school personnel to have annual suicide prevention training. I believe that it is time for this to change.
Suicide rates have been on the rise in Minnesota for the past few years. According to America's Health Rankings, there were 44,190 suicides in 2015, and for each completed suicide, there are 25 attempts leading to hospitalization. These numbers are alarming, and show that a reform in the way we deal with mental health is necessary.
The first step we can take is right in the schools. Teachers and counselors are at the front lines of helping students who have suicidal thoughts, and therefore, school personnel needs to be trained to appropriately handle such a situation.
In June 2016, suicide replaced homicide as the second leading cause of death for U.S. teenagers, according to the Population Reference Bureau. This sends a clear message: Our students are in trouble, and we need to do something about it.
If teachers were better equipped to help prevent a tragedy, students could get the help they need through someone they trust.
Ten states currently require teachers to have annual suicide prevention training - most often called the Jason Flatt Act - while 17 states have training but not annually. Minnesota, however, only suggests training their teachers, but does not have any requirements for it. This is not doing enough.
With required annual training, teachers could stay updated on the issues and be more adept at recognizing the signs of a student in trouble. The more information teachers have, the better the chance that a suicidal student gets help.
It's up to all of us to start thinking more actively about how we are going to treat mental health conditions in Minnesota. Ignoring our students and leaving teachers without resources or training is not going to solve the problem.
Suicide is preventable, and it's time for Minnesota to prioritize mental health.
Cloquet High School alumna
Former Pine Journal intern