Mental Health Minute

April 2016

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Suicide Prevention For Schools & Communities

I had the privilege of attending the Piney Woods Counseling Association spring meeting Friday where I learned a lot about a topic that everyone wishes did not exist, that we often ignore and that is carefully hidden by many. The presenter, Dr. Scott Poland from Nova Southeastern University, was extremely knowledgeable and encouraging on a potentially depressing topic. If you ever have the chance to attend his training, I highly recommend taking the opportunity.

The statistics are staggering:

  • 40-59 elementary school students die by suicide each year
  • 1000 middle school students
  • 2000 high school students
  • 2nd leading cause of death in college student

In a 2013 survey of Texas High School youth:

  • 16.7% considered suicide
  • 15.6% made a plan
  • 10.1% made an attempt

What can we do?

  • 41,000 suicides could be prevented each year by talking frankly about it at home, school and work
  • Education of warning signs and protective factors
  • Don't be afraid to ask: Are you thinking about killing yourself?
  • If you see warning signs, do NOT leave them alone--get help!


  • Suicide is rarely on a whim or without warning
  • Suicide is not inherited or destined
  • Talking about suicide will not plant the idea
  • There is a strong relationship between bullying and suicide
  • There is a relationship between suicide and self-injury (30% will attempt)
  • Sleep deprivation leads to depression and hopelessness (students are chronically sleep deprived)

Best Practices For Schools:

  • Campus Improvement plans should document annual training
  • District policies on parent notification, supervision, referral procedures, reentry programs, and support services
  • Information on websites about depression and suicide
  • Evidence based prevention programs: SOS Signs of Suicide,

HB 2186, Effective June 19, 2015

During the 2015 legislative session, HB2186, also known as The Jason Flatt Act in memory of Jonathan Childers, was passed with an effective date of June 19, 2015. Texas was the sixteenth state to pass The Jason Flatt Act. This law states suicide prevention training must be provided on an annual basis, as part of new employee orientation, to all new school district and open-enrollment charter school educators and to existing school district and open-enrollment charter school educators on a schedule adopted by the agency by rule.

Major components of the legislation are:

  1. The suicide prevention training must use a best practice-based program recommended by the Department of State Health Services in coordination with the agency under Section 161.324, Health and Safety Code.
  2. The suicide prevention training may be satisfied through independent review of suicide prevention training material that: complies with the guidelines developed by the agency; and is offered online.
  3. The Act applies beginning with the 2015 – 2016 school year.
  4. The Jason Flatt Act was passed in honor of Jonathan Childers, a 15 year old student from Fairfield ISD who took his life.
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