Suicide is the third-leading cause of death among kids between the ages of 10 and 14. It’s the second-leading cause of death for people between the ages of 15 and 34.
“We have got to do a better job of recognizing when we have children or adults…in crisis,” said Representative Tom Moore of Griswold, a retired teacher.
A bill that cleared the legislature this week directs Iowa schools to adopt suicide prevention strategies. Teachers and other school staff are to undergo at least one hour of training every year so they may better recognize “toxic stress” and other signs of depression that may lead to suicide.
“The only people who see our kids as much or more than we do as parents are our teachers,” Moore said. “This bill provides our teachers with necessary training to recognize signs of suicide in their students.”
The bill emphasizes that educators should be trained to identify a traumatic event in a student’s life that may have a lasting, negative effect on the student’s well-being. Representative Ras Smith of Waterloo said helping teachers recognize toxic stress in their students is a great step forward.
“This is showing that once we know better, we choose to do better,” Smith said.
Moore said teachers aren’t being called upon to be counselors, just to be on the look-out for signs their students may need help from a health care professional.
“This one hour annual training is a great start to a better informed public and will lead to lives being saved,” Moore said.
Last year, 433 people died of suicide in Iowa.
“On average, one person dies by suicide every 20 hours in Iowa,” Representative Timi Brown-Powers of Waterloo said. “This bill will help our teachers. It will help our students and it will save lives in Iowa.”
The bill won unanimous approval in both the House and Senate and the governor is expected to sign the bill into law.