Arizona teacher suicide prevention training critical amid coronavirus

Sep 18, 2020, 4:45 AM | Updated: 3:34 pm
(Pexels photo)...
(Pexels photo)
(Pexels photo)

PHOENIX — Suicide prevention training is now a requirement for some public school teachers and staff in Arizona.

The Mitch Warnock Act, which went into effect this school year, mandates that everyone in a school who works with students in sixth to twelfth grades receive suicide prevention training at least once every three years.

The law was named after a teen who died by suicide in 2016 during his senior year at Corona Del Sol High School in Tempe. His mother, Lorie Warnock, said “it means a great deal” to her family to have the law named after her son.

“My family and I have been through so much in terms of the loss of Mitch,” Warnock told KTAR News 92.3 FM. “We certainly feel the loss each and every day. And to know that other families could be potentially spared from the same sort of trauma and distress that our family and our community suffered from, means a great deal to us.”

Warnock said the training is needed “probably more than ever” as teens face anxiety and depression caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

She hopes it will bring awareness about the signs to look for in teens to prevent suicides. She also hopes it will lead to students feeling more comfortable to come forward when they’re feeling depressed or anxious.

“It’s okay to talk about it. You’re not alone,” Warnock said. “I think creating that climate of openness and non-judgmentalness and having safe spaces to speak about things that are perhaps troubling us is a huge benefit to this training.”

School administrators can choose from a list of evidence-based training courses that were selected by the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCS) and the Arizona Department of Education.

The two agencies also oversee the five-year Project AWARE grant to bring suicide prevention and behavioral health resources to schools.

Warnock, who’s a high school teacher, said she and other educators “are pressured more than ever” to focus on academics and testing, making it difficult to focus on students’ well-being.

“So this sort of training I think helps us to re-calibrate, to refocus and to remember that bottom line these are children in front of us each and every day,” she said. “They are facing a number of stresses and stressors for which they aren’t necessarily well-prepared.”

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Arizona teacher suicide prevention training critical amid coronavirus