New legislation aims to increase suicide prevention
COLUMBIA - Nine suicide prevention and awareness advocates from various agencies including the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) and Avery's Angels gathered in Jefferson City to express their support for a proposed Senate bill that would allow educators to participate in suicide prevention training as part of their professional development requirements.
"All of us who testified today have been affected or lost someone to suicide," Melody Sieger, AFSP Chairperson, said.
Sieger lost her mother to suicide, and now she works as an advocate for increasing awareness and prevention.
According to Sieger, depression, bullying and other mental illnesses contribute to suicide rates among young people.
She said the legislation has no financial cost because the AFSP provides free prevention training to any school that requests it.
"The research has already been done. There are model school policies that schools can adopt so there is no funding necessary," Sieger said.
Guidance counselor and 6 -12 coordinator Betsy Jones said suicide is "the end result of untreated and unsupported depression".
"We work with the student body on not keeping secrets and reporting if they are concerned about their friend," Jones said.
According to the AFSP, suicide is the second leading cause of death for young people ages 10-24, making adolescents a critical demographic to target.
Jones said students suicide prevention efforts in the Columbia Public School District start when students are in sixth grade.
The national average of suicides is 12.94 per 100,000 people, Missouri's average is 15.17.
Both Jones and Sieger said mental health programming could help address suicide before it becomes a major threat to a person's life.
If passed, the legislation would go into effect during the 2016-2017 academic school year. No one one spoke against the bill during Wednesday's hearing.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1 (800) 273-8255
Betsy Jones, guidance counselor and 6-12 coordinator at Rock Bridge High School said the legislation is important because it will help increase awareness.
Represenatives of the Mid-Missouri chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and Avery's Angels gathered in Jefferson City to express their support of the bill at a hearing