Alaska legislators vote for mandatory suicide prevention training in schools

“Perhaps our MLAs need to pass a motion similar to Alaska’s and Mississippi’s?”

By NUNATSIAQ NEWS

Congratulations to Alaskan State Senator Bettye Davis (D-Anchorage) whose “Act requiring suicide awareness and prevention training for certain school personnel” has passed both the Senate and the House and has been sent to the governor’s office for approval.

The proposed legislation has been strongly support by teacher and school counsellor associations in the state.

The act requires that every “school district, regional educational attendance area, and the department… annually provide youth suicide awareness and prevention training approved by the commissioner to each teacher, administrator, counselor, and specialist who is employed by the district, regional educational attendance area, or department to provide services to students in Grades 7 through 12 in a public school in the state at no cost to the teacher, administrator, counselor, or specialist.”

“Alaska has by far the highest rate of suicide per capita in the country,” Sen. Davis has said. “Training teachers in recognizing signs of at-risk youth and learning how to intervene has proved very helpful in reducing teen suicide in many other states.”

Alaska is the latest success for The Jason Foundation, “dedicated to the prevention of the “Silent Epidemic” of youth suicide through educational and awareness programs to equip young people, educators, youth workers and parents with the tools and resources to help identify and assist at-risk youth” across the United States.

In Mississippi, for example, the legislature passed legislation giving their Department of Education two years in which to provide all teachers with suicide awareness training – after which time having such training will become a condition of holding a teaching certificate in the state.

Here in Nunavut, where the youth suicide rate is many many times higher than it is anywhere in the U.S. or southern Canada, in October 2010 the AGM of the Nunavut Coalition of DEAs unanimously passed a motion urging “the Department of Education as a matter of the highest priority to make suicide alertness and intervention training available to ALL staff in Nunavut schools who wish to take it, as soon as possible and on an on-going basis.” (emphasis in the original.)

In response to a written question submitted by Quttiktuq MLA Ron Elliott, “As of February 29, 2012, what steps has the Department of Education taken to establish a business case and budget for the development of a plan of delivery?” the minister of education has replied that “The Department has not established a business case for the delivery of the Applied Suicide Intervention Skill Training Program” to Nunavut educators.

Why is that, I wonder?

Perhaps our Nunavut MLAs need to pass a motion similar to Alaska’s and Mississippi’s?

Jack Hicks
Member, Apex DEA

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