Dear County and District Superintendents and Charter School Administrators:
Youth Suicide Prevention Policy
As the 2017–18 school year comes to an end, I would like to remind you to take the time to ensure your local educational agency (LEA) has developed, adopted, and implemented a Youth Suicide Prevention Policy. California Education Code Section 215, as added by Assembly Bill 2246 (Chapter 642, Statutes of 2016), requires the governing board of any LEA that serves pupils in grades seven to twelve, inclusive, adopt a policy that addresses pupil suicide prevention, intervention, and postvention.
AB 2246 specifically addresses the needs of high-risk groups, including suicide awareness and prevention training for teachers, and will ensure that a school employee acts within the authorization and scope of the employee’s credential or license. While this legislation focuses on LEAs which serve students in grades seven to twelve, the California Department of Education (CDE) highly encourages all LEAs to develop suicide prevention policies as research indicates that suicidal ideation can often occur at an early age. Additionally, the CDE encourages an annual review of the policy and procedures to determine if any revisions or improvements are needed.
The Model Youth Suicide Prevention Policy, developed by the CDE, is available on the CDE Mental Health Web page at https://www.cde.ca.gov/ls/cg/mh/. The CDE also encourages each LEA to work closely with their county behavioral health department to both develop their policy and protocols as well as identify and access resources at the local level.
Youth suicide is the second leading cause of death for children and young adults between the ages of ten to twenty-four. According to the Centers for Disease Control, two to three percent of adolescents make a serious suicide attempt every year. In a school of 2,000 students, this means forty to sixty of their students will attempt suicide annually. Research demonstrates that 20 percent of students in our kindergarten through twelfth grade classrooms suffer from a mental health issue that affects their daily functioning. Often these students suffer silently, become alienated, and may be quietly contemplating suicide.
To promote student success inside and outside the classroom, we need to provide the tools and training to help school staff create a caring and supportive school environment. Early detection of student mental health issues by trusted adults and referrals for appropriate mental health care can save lives on school campuses across the state.
There is a critical need for staff to be prepared in the event of a suicide attempt and death by suicide. It is important, consequently, for school districts to develop and review their own suicide prevention policies and protocols for the health and safety of students as well as to ensure compliance with AB 2246.
For other suicide prevention resources and activities, please visit the following:
- CDE Youth Suicide Prevention Web page at https://www.cde.ca.gov/ls/cg/mh/suicideprevres.asp
- CDE Project Cal-Well Youth Mental Health First Aid Training Web page at https://www.cde.ca.gov/ls/cg/mh/projectcalwell.asp
- American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Web site at http://www.afsp.org/
- MY3 Web site at http://www.my3app.org/
- National Alliance on Mental Illness Web site at http://www.namicalifornia.org/
- National Institute on Mental Health Web site at http://www.nimh.nih.gov
- Each Mind Matters Web site at http://www.eachmindmatters.org/
- Suicide Prevention Center Web page at http://www.didihirsch.org/spc
- Know the Signs Web site at http://www.suicideispreventable.org/
- California Mental Health Services Authority Web site at http://calmhsa.org
- K–12 Toolkit for Mental Health Promotion and Suicide Prevention Web page at http://www.HEARDalliance.org
I recognize the importance of the health, safety, and well-being of our students and believe mental health and wellness must be a top priority in our schools. By working together, we can increase awareness of the mental health issues our students face and reduce the number of student suicides.
Please join me in taking a stand to reduce youth suicide by ensuring that your Youth Suicide Prevention Policy has been developed and adopted by your governing school board.
If you have any questions regarding this subject, please contact Monica Nepomuceno, Education Programs Consultant in the Educational Options, Student Support, and American Indian Education Office, by phone at 916-323-2212 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.