(TRENTON) – The New Jersey General Assembly on Monday approved legislation sponsored by Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt that aims to combat the uptick in mental health disorders and suicide rates among children and teenagers. Following passage in both the General Assembly and the Senate, bill A3526/S1662 now heads to the Governor’s desk for signature.
The bill would require the New Jersey Youth Suicide Prevention Advisory Council (the Council) to develop a report regarding suicide prevention instruction in schools. Specifically, the report would, among other actions, identify and review the effectiveness of suicide prevention instructions that are currently provided to public school teachers and students; establish how public schools can recognize students who may be at risk of suicide or self-injury; and make recommendations on ways to improve suicide prevention instruction. Additionally, the report would identify opportunities to enhance mental health treatment in public schools.
The bill authorizes the Council to consult with the New Jersey Departments of Health, Education and Children and Families in preparing the report. It also requires the Council to prepare a survey to collect data from local education agencies, approved private schools for students with disabilities, and charter and renaissance school projects in the 2023-2024 school year that will then be provided to the Department of Education.
“Recent, devastating suicides by young people in New Jersey highlight just how much work we have left to do to address the mental health crisis in this state,” said Assemblywoman Lampitt (D-Camden, Burlington). “There are clear gaps in our knowledge on this subject, and nowhere is this more obvious than in our schools. It is critical that we work to understand how this topic is currently addressed in school districts across the state so that we can better evaluate effective methodologies for identification, education, and prevention. This bill will help to give us the information we need to take further action to help our young people grow into happy and healthy adults.”
According to the National Institute of Health, over 20 percent of children ages three to 17 have either a mental or a behavioral disorder. Additionally, between 2008 and 2020, suicide rates for children ages 12 to 17 have increased by 16 percent.