WICIHTA, Kansas – Suicide is an issue that’s hard to talk about but today, the Kansas House passed a bill that would require schools to provide suicide prevention training for all staff.
KSN talked with both school officials and community leaders about the bill and what it would mean.
A lot of schools already have protocols and procedures in place to handle a suicide crisis but with the help of this bill, prevention training would become a requirement.
“In general, mental health is highly shuttered,” said Kim Baldwin, a school psychologist for Wichita Public Schools, Heights High School.
Baldwin says mental health can’t be talked about enough.
That’s why Heights High already has a program in place that educates both students and staff on the warning signs of suicide.
“They’re not counselors—it doesn’t train them to be practitioners, but it trains them to be eyes and ears,” Baldwin said.
And it encourages students and staff to report something that may seem like unusual behavior.
Some of those warning signs include observable signs of serious depression, increased alcohol and or other drug use, recent impulsiveness, threatening or talking about suicide, making a plan or unexpected rage or anger.
But Baldwin says the responsibility falls on everyone.
“Even though we’re looking for warning signs and we’re aware of students’ mental health, we can’t always be a part of what goes on at home,” she said.
Community leaders agree that awareness has to extend beyond the classroom.
“We’ve had about 5-7 suicides in the last 7-8 years in our community,” said Colwich Mayor, Terry Spexarth.
That’s why in 2012, he held a community-wide awareness program.
“Ii don’t want to be the person that somebody comes up to and says, ‘Why didn’t you do something in our community? You’re one of the leaders in our community. Why didn’t you do something?’ he said.
And the conversation isn’t ending.
“If we help out one person then it’s all worth it,” Spexarth said.
There is a local suicide prevention hotline that runs 24 hours, seven days a week.
For anyone struggling personally or friends and family hoping to help a loved one, that number is 316-660-7500.
For more information on suicide prevention, click here.