Trenton – With suicide ranking as the third leading cause of death for young people between the ages of 10 and 24 in the country, a Senate committee today approved a bill that would include a suicide prevention program in the schools.
The legislation, S-3172, sponsored by Senator Joe Cryan and Senator M. Teresa Ruiz, would have the State Board of Education revise the Core Curriculum Standards in Health and Physical Education to include instruction in suicide prevention and mental health in elementary through high school.
“Reports document the tragedies of the more than 280 young people in New Jersey who took their own lives from 2013 to 2015,” said Senator Cryan (D-Union). “In many cases there are identifiable and treatable mental health problems involved. These should be preventable deaths. Recognizing and addressing core mental health issues in young people can save their lives.”
The 2017 New Jersey Youth Suicide Report found that 32 percent of young people who committed suicide were reported to have a mental health problem, but only 25 percent were receiving treatment.
“According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, one in five youth live with a mental health condition, but less than half of them receive needed services,” said Senator Ruiz, who serves as chair of the Senate Education Committee. “Mental illness creates barriers to academic success, and often leads to absenteeism, low achievement and dropping out of school. School personnel can be crucial to identifying students with mental illnesses early and providing links to effective services that can help them and prevent suicides.”
The school instruction would use evidence-based standards adapted to the age and understanding of the students and would include the recognition of warning signs, self-care for mental health and wellness, awareness of the risk of suicide and self-harm, the relationship between mental health, substance abuse, and other negative coping behaviors, the stigma of mental illness and the ability to identify appropriate professionals, services, and family supports for suicide prevention.
The bill was approved by the Senate Education Committee.