As National Suicide Prevention Month wraps up, we believe it’s important to discuss prevention efforts for children, teens, and young adults throughout the year. One way we’re committed to doing just that is through ongoing advocacy that emphasizes the mental health needs of Kentucky youth.

The School Safety and Resiliency Act of 2019 (SB 1), developed in response to the tragic 2018 Marshall County High School shooting, ensures all students are able to learn in a safe and supportive school environment. The uniqueness of this bill is its comprehensive look at the issue of school safety as a both the “heartware” as much as the “hardware” of the school.

Within SB 1, all public schools will adopt a trauma-informed approach that creates a culture of respect and support for students to grow as resilient learners and community members. When kids go to a school that educates the entire staff to work with kids in recognizing, understanding, and addressing the learning needs of students impacted by trauma, ALL kids, including those who have been traumatized, will be safe and successful. When a child is known well by at least one adult in the school setting, he or she feels more connected and is more likely to respond to trauma or other stressors in a more resilient manner.

Also, SB 1 increases the requirements for suicide awareness and prevention training for both school faculty and students. Each student in grades 6 through 12 will receive in-person, live-stream, or video training as opposed to a previous plan of disseminating information to students. Each faculty member who has direct contact with a 6th through 12th grade student will receive 1-hour of training every other year before September 15. This training will also educate faculty members about the signs and symptoms of mental illness.

Lastly, SB 1 addresses the behavioral health supports needed for students. An opportunity, called the free care policy, will allow the Cabinet for a Health and Family Services and local school districts to provide physical and behavioral health services to children in schools. This policy opens the door for schools to increase the number of behavioral health providers that can see students by allowing for reimbursement of services that were previously only available to students with an individualized education plan (IEP). Implementing more behavioral health professionals in schools can improve students’ connections at school and increase resiliency. This also allows for more students to be seen by a behavioral health professional, as faculty members are being trained on recognizing signs and symptoms of mental illness.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline’s #BeThe1To campaign reminds each of us that there are actions we can all take to prevent suicide. The Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) offers resources for both those who are feeling suicidal, as well as those concerned about them. They have trained counselors available 24/7 to speak with either you or your loved one. If you think a person is in imminent danger of hurting themselves or someone else, call 911.

A comprehensive list of suicide prevention resources can be found here, which includes resources specifically for youth and their parents. We also recommend checking out the You Are Not Alone series produced by KET.