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Suicide prevention measure introduced in Missouri House committee

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JEFFERSON CITY — State lawmakers backed an effort to promote suicide prevention measures in schools during a House committee hearing on Monday.

The proposal would establish optional mental health training seminars for educators and require schools to print suicide prevention resources on school IDs from grade seven through higher education.

“This is a perfect time for the state to pass legislation that complements and emphasizes Missouri’s new suicide hotline number, 988,” said the sponsor, Rep. Ann Kelley, R-Lamar.

The 988 number, which goes into full effect nationwide in July, directs callers to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. That number would be printed on student IDs.

The bill is titled the “Jason Flatt/Avery Reine Cantor Act” after two teens who died by suicide. Jason lived in Tennessee; Avery was a junior at Lafayette High School when she died in 2014.

Kelley addressed questions about amending the bill to make the mental health training mandatory, saying she’s open to the idea but hesitant about instituting mandates.

The bill received support from the committee and witnesses, with many pointing to rising suicide rates.

“For context, suicide rates have consistently risen since the year 2000, with more than half of states reporting at least a 30% increase in the overall number of suicides,” said Ramon Martinez, who conducted research on the issue for MOST Policy Initiative.

School settings can increase stressors contributing to suicide, Martinez said, noting that suicide is the second leading cause of death for adolescents ages 15 to 19. The high occurrence and increased risk has made schools an effective avenue for this sort of education initiative, backers said.

“As a psychiatrist, clearly whatever we can do to get the word out, to help people be more aware, we should do,” said Rep. Lisa Thomas, R-Lake Ozark.

Resources for those in crisis are available through the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by visiting the website or calling 1-800-273-8255.

The legislation is House Bill 2136.

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