Law Requiring N.H. Schools To Implement Suicide Prevention Policy Lacks State Funding
As schools in New Hampshire prepare for a new law requiring suicide prevention policies, questions about how districts will implement these policies remain.
The law also requires school districts to include annual training on suicide recognition and prevention for all school staff.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the suicide rate in New Hampshire is up 48.3 percent from 1999 to 2016. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for those under 24 years old.
Each school district and chartered public school must also develop a policy that includes:
"Educating students in the importance of safe and healthy choices and coping strategies, recognizing risk factors and warning signs of mental disorders and suicide in oneself and others, and providing help-seeking strategies for oneself or others, including how to engage school resources and refer friends for help."
Candice Porter, who serves on the state Suicide Prevention Council and is the executive director of Connor's Climb Foundation says the requirements are vague, which is challenging, especially for elementary schools.
"Because on the elementary level, they're doing a ton of pro social emotional well-being, resiliency, programming," Porter says. "It might not be a straight suicide prevention program, but it's through the lens of awareness, prevention, resiliency."
Julie Donovan is the prevention specialist for Pinkerton Academy in Derry. She says the Department of Education should take a role in helping schools as they implement these new requirements.
"The programs that they have to train staff in two hours every year going forward, I feel it should be uniform," she says. "So that if I transfer from Pinkerton Academy and get a job in Concord, I'm going to be doing similar training."
The new law does not include any state funding for the training. Porter says that while Connor's Climb and other organizations offer free training, school districts will still incur costs. "It's the districts having to say that they're going to allow their faculty to take time to get trained."
Porter says that she thinks resources will come in time. "Just passing this legislation alone is a key piece to moving the conversation forward."
School districts have until July 1, 2020 to implement the new suicide prevention training and policies.