TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senator Ellen Karcher and Assemblymen Bob Morgan and Mike Panter which would require the State Board of Education to include two hours of instruction in suicide prevention as part of the professional development requirement for teaching staff was approved today by the Senate by a vote of 39-0.
“Right now, suicide is the third leading killer of teenagers, but through education and outreach, we can change that,” said Senator Karcher, D-Monmouth and Mercer. “Just like any other disease, if suicidal feelings are recognized early enough, the fatality rate can be undercut through counseling and treatment. By equipping our teachers with the appropriate skills to recognize kids in need, we will be able to help thousands overcome the feelings of low-self worth and hopelessness that feed into suicidal tendencies.”
“I would be remiss if I didn’t recognize the championship of Assemblyman Morgan in pushing this bill to become reality,” said Senator Karcher. “Dr. Morgan brought valuable expertise as a former school board member and a highly regarded healthcare professional to really push this issue to the forefront.”
The bill, S-2622, would require the State Board of Education, in consultation with the New Jersey Youth Suicide Prevention Advisory Board, to require each public school teaching staff member to complete at least two hours of instruction in suicide prevention as part of the professional development requirement established by the Board. Under the bill, the suicide prevention instruction must be provided by a licensed health care professional with training and experience in mental health issues.
“Teachers spend a lot of time with our kids in the course of their education, and may be the best equipped to raise a red flag for kids at-risk of committing suicide,” said Senator Karcher. “The number of teen suicides committed in the last decade represents epidemic proportions, and we cannot allow the stigma of mental illness to keep us from having a frank and open discussion of our children’s mental health. By training teachers to recognize many of the telltale signs of depression and suicidal feelings, we will be able to save thousands of children from tragedy.”
The bill now heads back to the Assembly for concurrence with Senate Committee amendments. If approved, it then goes to the Governor’s desk to be signed into law.