SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson marked Suicide Awareness and Prevention Month today by reminding students, teachers, and staff at C.K. McClatchy High School to recognize the risk factors of suicide so they can help identify students who might be in crisis and need assistance.
Students from the C.K. McClatchy National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) on Campus Club and the California Department of Education (CDE) conducted the event to focus on student suicide risks.
“The suicide of a student is a terrible tragedy that devastates a family, a school, and an entire community. We must do everything we can to prevent suicide,” said Torlakson. “Every suicide threat made by a student should be taken seriously.”
Torlakson said peer-to-peer assistance programs, school mental health professionals, and trained school and district staff can reassure and support a student who might be struggling with depression, stress, anxiety, loneliness, or bullying.
A recent study in the Journal of Pediatrics stated that nearly one in five high school students in California experienced suicidal ideation.
Torlakson, a former high school science teacher and coach, has championed student mental health for decades as an educator, county supervisor, and as a state legislator. This year he received a career recognition award from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
In 2012, he convened the Student Mental Health Policy Workgroup, a panel of expert volunteers that assessed the mental health needs of students.
Torlakson supported legislation that required schools serving grades seven to twelve to develop a suicide prevention policy starting in the 2017–18 school year.
In June, Governor Jerry Brown set aside $1.7 million in the state budget to fund online suicide prevention training for all public middle and high school students. The training program will also address the needs of high-risk groups such as Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual, Transgender, and Queer; American Indian; and Alaskan Native youth.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide rates have increased in nearly every state from 1999–2016. Suicide is the second-leading cause of death for young people between the ages of 10–24.
Torlakson encouraged people in crisis to use suicide prevention services, including the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-272-8255, and to visit the CDE Youth Suicide Prevention web page.