Suicide prevention has been a devastating topic of discussion in the Iowa Legislature. Senate file 337, a bill for “an act training on suicide prevention and trauma-informed care for school personnel” was recently passed.
Sen. Tod Bowman, D-Maquoketa, and floor manager for the bill confirmed that currently, the bill has been sent to the House and will be assigned to the education committee.
"Hopefully they have a subcommittee reporting on it already,” Bowman said.
Teenage suicide in the state of Iowa is a major health concern. Many schools in the state of Iowa have had to endure the trauma that suicides bring.
“There are a number of senators and representatives that have been concerned about the lack of resources for mental health care and suicide prevention,” said Sen. Matt McCoy, D-Des Moines.
“We want to raise awareness, and make folks aware that this is a major cause of death, a leading cause of death among young people,” McCoy said.
Suicides are very common among the younger generation of people between the ages of 15 and 24.
“There is so much we could be doing and should be doing to bring awareness about suicide prevention,” McCoy said.
The bill will require training programs for school personnel that will equip them with the ability to handle suicide situations.
“The training program is going to be developed by the Board of Educational Examiners,” Bowman said. “There is going to be a lot of people involved in the creation of the training, the teachers will have to go through that process and get certified."
For now, guidance counselors are the main outlets for troubled students.
The suicide incident that took place two years ago at Johnston High School, where two boys took their own lives, grabbed the attention of Iowa’s state legislators and sparked the creation of this statewide bill.
The guidance counselors from the high school preform certain actions and provide different programs for the students of Johnston for suicide prevention.
Audrey Bell, a Johnston High School counselor, said Johnston has a “Student Assistance Plan (SAP) contract with Iowa Health,” and the school has an on-site SAP counselor 1 1/2 days per week.
Johnston also has “ninth grade staff and two high school counselors trained by Brenda Bash on Trauma Informed Care this year."
During the January 2012 crisis, Johnston counselors made contact with other local schools and church organizations for crisis counseling. "We had several volunteers,” Bell said.
"Counselors work individually with troubled students and their families to provide resources for suicide ideation, mental health issues, et cetera,” Bell said.
Faculty members from schools all around Iowa will receive training on suicide prevention as soon as July 1, 2013, when the bill will go into effect.