Bill aims to prevent teen suicides

2013-03-26T23:21:00Z Bill aims to prevent teen suicidesBy STEVE ANDRIST | Bismarck Tribune Bismarck Tribune
March 26, 2013 11:21 pm  • 

Rep. Bob Hunskor posed a serious question.

“Four of five young people who attempt suicide have given clear warning signs before the attempt,” said Hunskor, D-Newburg, on the House floor Tuesday.

“If your child was one of those, wouldn’t you want their teacher to be trained in suicide prevention and awareness?”

With that, the North Dakota House voted 92-0 to approve Senate Bill 2306, requiring school districts to provide at least two hours of training in suicide risk indicators and appropriate responses to them.

The need is clear, Hunskor said.

The attorney general’s office has reported that suicide is the second leading cause of death among young people in the state, and suicide attempts have increased 40 percent in the last 12 months.

A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study reveals that one in seven young people in North Dakota have contemplated suicide, Hunskor said. One in eight have made a plan to commit suicide, and one in nine have attempted suicide.

Using those figures, “We could have 13 attempted suicides every day in North Dakota,” Hunskor said. “That is rather alarming.”

Under the bill, North Dakota would become one of 15 states approved by the Jason Foundation for free use of the group’s training and awareness program.

Participating school districts would have access to the foundation’s program to provide at least two hours of training to teachers every two years.

The Jason Foundation was founded in Tennessee by the father of a suicide victim, and Hunskor said Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem was responsible for establishing a Jason Foundation program in Fargo.

“Programs like the Jason Foundation could play a major role in reducing the suicide rate by providing training in early identification of suicide,” Hunskor said.

Rep. Naomi Muscha, D-Enderlin, supported the bill.

“Two years ago, I was one of these teachers who had a student commit suicide,” she said.

“Our school handled it very well, but if we would have been able to prevent it, it would have been much better.”

The House also voted 92-0 to revive the state’s Committee on Employment of People With Disabilities.

Rep. Kylie Oversen, D-Grand Forks, said that for some reason, the committee has been dormant for several years.

At the same time, a fund to support the committee has grown to more than $60,000 through statutory contributions from a portion of the fees collected for handicapped parking permits.

Oversen said the bill, SB2271, refocuses the goals of the committee, and said, “Our state will be supporting competitive and integrated employment of people with disabilities.”

The House killed a bill, SB2183, that would have increased the residency requirements of people circulating petitions for initiated measures and referrals.

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