Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Troy Singleton, Pamela Lampitt, Annette Quijano and Eliana Pintor Marin that would better prepare teachers to help prevent student suicides was advanced by an Assembly panel on Monday.
“Effective suicide prevention among teens requires a full court press from the community,” said Singleton (D-Burlington). “Teaching staff can help be our frontline guards in this battle because they are well placed to notice and act on any early signs of depression. Hopefully this enhanced training will help us avert many future tragedies.”
The bill (A-3224) would require that public school teaching staff members receive two hours of instruction in suicide prevention annually as part of the professional development requirement.
“It’s important that kids know that there are many resources in place to help them if they’re depressed and they should never feel alone,” said Lampitt (D-Camden/Burlington). “Teachers are in one of the best positions to recognize these signs so we should make sure they’re well-prepared to talk to students if the need arises.”
Currently, two hours of instruction in suicide prevention is required over the course of the five-year professional development period. This bill would require public school teaching staff members to receive two hours of instruction annually, for a total of 10 hours over the course of the professional development period.
“The consequences of suicide on families and communities are devastating,” said Quijano (D-Union). “Training teachers to recognize the warning signs and properly intervene can be a powerful tool that impacts not just individual lives, but the community as a whole.”
“Most days kids spend a majority of their waking hours at school,” said Pintor Marin (D-Essex). “If anyone is in a good position to recognize potential signs of suicide, it is the teachers and staff that surround them all day long. Training them to properly react and handle these situations is a smart move.”
The sponsors noted that although New Jersey has the third lowest suicide rate in the country, according to statistics from the CDC, both the number of New Jerseyans and the proportion of the population who died by suicide rose in 2010, the most recent year statistics were available. This trend, which is also being replicated nationally, translated to 719 suicides in New Jersey that year, a rate of 8.2 per 100,000 people, which is the highest the state has seen since at least 1999.
The bill was approved by the Assembly Education Committee and now awaits consideration by the full Assembly.