Capitol Ideas

CSG Knowledge Center

Research Services

MLC Policy Resolutions

Stateline Midwest

States Perform


More states in Midwest requiring teachers, school staff to be trained in prevention of youth suicide

by Tim Anderson ~ June 2014 ~ Stateline Midwest »
Two hours, once every two years.
Could that small commitment of time that North Dakota teachers are now being asked to make be the difference between the life and death of a young person? The state’s lawmakers believe so, which is why SB 2306 passed the House and Senate during their last legislative session without a single “no” vote.
As a result of the bill’s passage, teachers across the state, along with local school administrators, will receive biennial training on how to detect the warning signs of youth suicide. School personnel will also learn how to appropriately intervene.
“The idea isn’t to make teachers and school staff experts about youth suicide,” says Sen. Joan Heckaman, sponsor of SB 2306. “We want to raise awareness and make sure these children get the professional help they need.”
Heckaman is a retired schoolteacher. In the tribal school where she once taught, one student lost two brothers to suicide. Her hometown of New Rockford, too, has had tragic cases of youth suicide.
As her bill first began making its way through the North Dakota General Assembly, it contained “may provide” language — school districts would not have been required to provide the training on youth suicide. But by the time the measure reached the governor’s desk, thanks in part to powerful legislative testimony, “shall provide” language had been inserted.
A growing number of U.S. states, in fact, are mandating some type of training for teachers and other school personnel.
In addition to North Dakota, states such as Illinois and Ohio require teachers and other staff to get training on suicide prevention. A bill signed into law in Nebraska this year (LB 923) will soon require one-hour, annual training of school personnel.
In Indiana, new teachers must now complete training on the prevention of child suicide in order to obtain their license. (The state legislature approved this requirement in 2011.) In states such as Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin, school training on suicide prevention is encouraged, but not required. (School districts are provided access to materials and/or model training programs.)
Some states also now have laws requiring schools to educate young people about mental health and illness, according to a state-by-state list of statutes compiled in 2013 by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. For example, instruction on mental health and illness must be a part of mandatory health-education classes in Illinois.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is the third-leading cause of death for children between the ages of 10 and 24. About 4,600 people in this age group take their own lives every year, and many more attempt suicide.
In a national survey of high school students, 8 percent of respondents said they had tried to take their own life in the last year, while 16 percent had seriously considered suicide.