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New Hampshire Schools to Develop Suicide Prevention Policies

The State House dome in Concord, New Hampshire
Ali Oshinskie / NHPR


New Hampshire parents who have lost children to suicide said Friday that a new law that focuses on schools will save lives.

The bill signed by Republican Gov. Chris Sununu will require schools to develop policies on suicide prevention, response and risk assessment and to provide suicide prevention training for faculty, staff and volunteers.

"Knowledge is power, and this will empower our educators, our students and our school staff to save lives," said Tara Ball, whose son, Connor, died in 2011.

Ball said her son's death put her on a path to advocacy, and she pushed unsuccessfully for similar legislation several years ago.

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Sununu described this year's bill as part of a larger effort to rebuild the state's mental health system.

"This state is clearly moving in the right direction on a lot of these issues," he said. "There's momentum, there's discussion, we're breaking down the stigma of talking about this."

Suicide rates have been rising in nearly every state in recent years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the rate is increasing faster in New Hampshire than many other states. While the overall suicide rate increased by 25% nationally between 1999 and 2016, New Hampshire's rate increased 48%.

Until 2010, data had indicated that rates of youth and young adult suicide in New Hampshire were either flat or on a downward trend, according to the latest annual report from the New Hampshire Suicide Prevention Council. But those rates have increased in more recent years. From 2012 through 2016, the suicide rate for young people ages 10-17 was just over 4 deaths per 100,000 people. The rate jumped to 15 deaths per 100,000 for young adults ages 18-24, suggesting the transition from adolescence to adulthood as a particularly vulnerable time.

Martha Dickey, whose 19-year-old son died by suicide in 2017, said the new law and other measures passed by lawmakers this year create a strong framework, but much more work remains. She thanked lawmakers and the governor, however, for "sending a message to all of New Hampshire's youth that your state and your community is here for you."


-- Holly Ramer, Associated Press


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