SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson today thanked Governor Jerry Brown for signing legislation requiring schools that serve students from grades 7 to 12 to adopt suicide prevention policies.
Torlakson supported AB 2246 by Assembly Member Patrick O’Donnell, D-Long Beach and Chair of the Assembly Education Committee. The bill, signed on Monday, September 26, requires the California Department of Education (CDE) to develop and maintain a model suicide prevention policy.
“With this change, we can better identify students in need, get them help, and keep them safe,” Torlakson said. “One of my top priorities is serving the needs of the whole child, including their mental health needs. This bill is a big step forward in our ongoing efforts to help our students.”
“As classroom teacher, I know from experience that educators often serve as the first line of defense when a student is suffering from depression or suicidal thoughts,” said Assembly Member O’Donnell. “AB 2246 will provide parents, teachers, and schools with the tools they need to help save the lives of at-risk youth.”
Torlakson is a longtime supporter of expanding mental health services and preventing suicides. When Torlakson served in the California State Senate in 2004, he was state co-chair of the campaign for Proposition 63, a measure that increased income taxes on the wealthy to fund mental health programs.
As State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Torlakson convened a Student Mental Health Policy Workgroup. The group of 40 experts has conducted 20 free trainings in suicide prevention across the state for more than 500 teachers.
Earlier this year, CDE released the Healthy Kids Survey, which describes how students feel about school and how they rank their school environment.
The survey showed schools need to focus more attention on better meeting the needs of youth. For example, two indicators of depression risk showed little change since the last survey two years ago.
Nearly one-fourth of seventh graders and around one-third of ninth and eleventh graders reported feelings of chronic sadness or hopelessness. And, almost 20 percent of high school students had seriously contemplated suicide.
Torlakson in 2014 released a letter encouraging school districts to adopt suicide prevention policies. Under the new law, each district will be required to adopt suicide policies beginning with the 2017-18 school year.
In 2014, there were nearly 2,300 suicide attempts by students 15 to 19 years old in California.
The DOD has now issued a final rule expanding access to mental health and substance use disorder treatment for service members. The rule eliminates quantitative and nonquantitative limitations on care. All inpatient mental health day limits were eliminated, as were annual and lifetime limitations on outpatient services and substance use disorder treatment. Copayments for mental health visits were reduced. Substance use disorder treatment will now include outpatient medication-assisted protocols.
The new rule represents a step forward for service members and their families.
Still, their effects need to be documented better. According to former U.S. Army psychiatrist Charles Engel, M.D., a senior scientist at the RAND Corporation in Boston:
“What works for those in uniform may be in tension with what is best for non-uniformed military health system beneficiaries. There are lots of complex pieces to these changes, but there has been little large, independent health care services analysis of the system.”
More information on this topic can be found at Psychiatric News Alert, and in the book Care of Military Service Members, Veterans, and Their Families from APA Publishing. APA members may purchase the book at a discount here.
Mental Health Awareness Week is October 2-8, an annual event where advocates across the nation will come together to spread awareness about the importance of mental health and to speak out against the stigma around mental illness. Thanks to NAMI’s efforts in 1990, U.S. Congress established the first full week in October for the observance.
Each Mind Matters developed a toolkit with valuable resources that can be customized to raise awareness in your community and help reduce the stigma surrounding mental health challenges. Download the 2016 Mental Health Awareness Week Toolkit and share with Each Mind Matters and NAMI California how you use the materials by tagging @EachMindMatters and @NAMICalifornia on social.
Show-Off Your Lime Green
Lime green is building momentum as the national color for mental health awareness. Wearing the lime green ribbon is a great way to open an honest dialogue with friends, family, classmates and co-workers about mental health. And it’s an easy way to show your support. It’s also easy to order! Get your lime green ribbon, wristband or other Each Mind Matters items at their online shop . Or wear it online by adding this twibbonto your profile on social media. Here are some more ideas to help you get creative while showing your support:
- Post selfies wearing your lime green ribbon on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Plus, encourage others to do the same. Use the hashtag#EachMindMatters and #NAMICalifornia.
- Order a supply of lime green ribbons or wristbands and keep them in your desk, car, backpack or purse to offer to people when they ask about it.
- Ask family members and friends to wear their support too.
- Wear lime green clothes, paint your nails lime green or even put a streak of lime green in your hair! Let everyone know that Each Mind Matters.