In response to the 10 deaths by suicide among East Valley students since the start of the academic year, State Senator Sean Bowie has introduced legislation that will require two hours of suicide-prevention training for educators and counselors who work with students in grades 6-12. The following is his commentary.
Like many people in our community, I have viewed the alarming increase in teen suicides over the years with increasing concern.
I’ve attended community forums, spoken to parents and administrators, and researched what other states are doing to address this crisis.
But I wanted to do more.
As I visited each of the 45 schools throughout my district last year, I kept asking our principals and teachers about this epidemic, and about the kind of training they receive to help spot warning signs and ways they can help.
A broader look at the state overall shows that while some districts have taken the lead in training their teachers, others still have a way to go.
There is broad consensus that something needs to be done to address this epidemic, but little in the way of actual public policy implemented at the state or local level.
According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, suicide is the second leading cause of death for young people ages 10-34 in Arizona.
After meeting with local parents, some of whom lost their own children to teen suicide, I knew there was more we could do at the state capitol to help our teachers and educators better help and support our students.
It’s why I introduced Senate Bill 1391, a bill currently making its way through the legislature. It would require, beginning in the 2019-2020 school year, two hours of in-person, evidence based training per year for teachers, guidance counselors, and principals who work with students in grades 6 through 12.
We named the bill the Mitch Warnock Act, after a young man we lost in 2016 who attended Corona Del Sol High School.
Mitch represents just one of the several lives our community has lost in recent years to suicide.
Over 25 states have passed laws requiring suicide prevention training for teachers.
If signed into law, this training will help teachers and administrators identify warning signs and
develop intervention measures before it’s too late.
More training and support will undoubtedly save lives, and create a culture of support and inclusion at each school.
The legislative process is unpredictable, so even if SB 1391 does not move forward this year, it is still critically important that we bring awareness to what has turned into an epidemic, not just locally, but nationally as well.
As your state senator, I will continue to help lead the fight to increase that awareness and work with our local school districts to craft policies that provide the training that our teachers and educators need.
Our young people are counting on us to keep moving forward.
Sean Bowie represents Legislative District 18, which includes Ahwatukee, south Tempe, west
Chandler and southwest Mesa. He can be reached at 602-926-3004 or email@example.com.