OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – A bill that would require Oklahoma school districts to adopt suicide awareness and training programs for grades seven through 12 passed the Senate this week.
Under Senate Bill 266, schools would have access to a free suicide awareness and training program through the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.
However, schools could choose to select a different training program from a list maintained by the agency.
The program would include core element research-based approaches to prevent youth suicide.
The bill was authored by Sen. Allison Ikley-Freeman, D-Tulsa, and Rep. Marcus McEntire, R-Duncan.
“Data from the Oklahoma State Department of Health shows that suicide is the second leading cause of death among our youth ages 10 through 24 in Oklahoma,” Ikley-Freeman said. “Unmet mental health needs often contribute to suicidal thoughts. We need to show our students that it is okay to talk about mental health, understand the signs of suicide and get help.”
Ikley-Freeman, who is also a mental health professional, says the bill is the first step in preventing suicide among children in Oklahoma.
“Suicide awareness training is important so faculty and children can recognize the signs of suicide in their students and peers,” Ikley-Freeman said. “Anxiety and depression, two major contributors to suicidal thoughts, are overwhelming our state’s medical, mental health and education systems. It’s time to diversify how we support these mental health needs. Implementing this program in our schools could very literally save lives, and I’m glad my colleagues have stepped up to address this critical issue.”
The measure now goes before the House for consideration.