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State Board Of Education Revives Effort To Require Suicide Prevention Education

Suicide Prevention Hechinger Report 5
Mike Vanata for the Hechinger Report
Hechinger Report
Cody High students take a break from their social studies class to learn about QPR — question, persuade, refer — from Wendy Morris, the prevention specialist with Healthy Park County.

Wyoming has the highest suicide rate in the nation, at more than twice the national average, and nationally, suicide is the second leading cause of death among adolescents. Advocates say suicide prevention education is a way to address the problem.

A bill to require suicide prevention education in schools died during the last legislative session, but the issue is now before the Wyoming State Board of Education, which is recommending suicide prevention awareness be added to the state health curriculum for grades six through twelve.

The state health standards are currently under review, and during a recent public comment period, 64 percent of respondents mentioned a need for suicide prevention education, according to a presentation made by the Wyoming Department of Education (WDE) to the state board.

In response board chairman Ryan Fuhrman told the WDE he wants the standards to provide robust guidance for Wyoming educators. "I think the key is warning signs and what to do; both in yourself and in others," said Fuhrman. "With our kids coming out of school with that hopefully we can start to turn this tide."

Dr. Scott Thomas, who represents the University of Wyoming on the state board, encouraged thoughtful consideration of suicide prevention related health standards.

"It's a very weighty standard - literally life and death," said Thomas. "I would want to make sure that we have thought through how we are preparing our educators to be able to respond responsibly and adequately to the expectations that we could be setting through such a standard."

The WDE will draft language for review at the board's next meeting in November.

If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, you can call The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or reach the Crisis Text Line by texting HELLO to 741741.

Tennessee -- despite what the name might make you think -- was born and raised in the Northeast. She most recently called Vermont home. For the last 15 years she's been making radio -- as a youth radio educator, documentary producer, and now reporter. Her work has aired on Reveal, The Heart, LatinoUSA, Across Women's Lives from PRI, and American RadioWorks. One of her ongoing creative projects is co-producing Wage/Working (a jukebox-based oral history project about workers and income inequality). When she's not reporting, Tennessee likes to go on exploratory running adventures with her mutt Murray.
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