One of the bills passed in the recent Arizona Legislative Session was SB 1468, which expanded suicide awareness and prevention training in Arizona’s public schools. Parker Unified School District Superintendent Brad Sale said the schools need to recognize the needs of their students and get them the help they need.
The bill was also known as the Mitch Warnock Act after a student at Corona Del Sol High School who took his own life at age 18. His parents, Timothy Warnock and Lorie Adair championed the bi-partisan bill, along with the JEM Foundation, a non-profit founded by Denise and Ben Denslow. They also lost a child to suicide.
Gov. Doug Ducey signed the bill into law May 8. It became effective Aug. 27.
“Suicide has become a significant public health issue in the United States,” Ducey said in a statement of signing the bill. “We’ve already loss to many young people to suicide and I’m glad that Arizona is taking action the first responders in our schools- our guidance counselors, teachers and administrators –on how to identify the warning signs that lead to suicide.
Warnock, Adair and the Denslows thanked the Legislature for passing the bill and Ducey for signing it. In published reports, they said the bill recognized the central role that schools and teachers have in the lives of young people.
Sale said the new law requires training for teachers in grades six through 12 in recognizing when a student may be contemplating suicide and what steps can be taken to prevent suicide. That training will be provided by the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment Service (AHCCCS). Sale said the training should take five or six hours and will be good for three years.
“Kids all over have more anxiety and depression,” Sale said. “We need to be able to recognize their needs and be able to respond.”
Training for suicide prevention should be uniform for all the schools, Sale said. He added it would be great to include suicide prevention training for student teachers.
Sale said the Parker School District has procedures in place for getting young people into counseling. He added the district will be applying for new competitive grants for programs on suicide prevention.
The state is providing $20 million in grants for suicide prevention programs.
According to a report from the Arizona Department of Health Services, 50 Arizona adolescents and teens died by suicide in 2017. There have been no recent suicides by students in Parker.
“We’ve been lucky,” Sale said. “It doesn’t mean they’re not thinking about it.”
If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or Arizona’s Teen Lifeline at 1-800-248-8336.