18% of La. students considered suicide last year

Published: Apr. 6, 2022 at 6:00 PM CDT|Updated: Apr. 6, 2022 at 6:29 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Suicide among Louisiana students has become a top worry. Not just among educators and parents, but also among state lawmakers who are looking to find a solution to a tragic trend.

“The scale of this problem is breathtaking. And it’s unfortunately often under-reported. People don’t realize just how common this is,” said Logan Anderson with the Sandy Hook Promise.

The mood in today’s House Committee on Education turned somber when the topic turned to the state’s childhood suicide rates.

“37% of students reported feeling sad or hopeless almost every day for at least a two-week period during the last year. 18% of students that were surveyed reported that they actually made a plan about how they would commit suicide within the last year, that’s 18% of Louisiana students,” Anderson continued.

“In the last 6-8 years we’ve seen a major uptick in teen suicide in our parish,” said President of the Winn Parish Police Jury, Joshua McAlister.

To do something about it, state Rep. Lorie Schlegel (R) introduced a plan requiring public school students in grades 6-12 to receive training on suicide prevention and student safety, violence prevention, and social isolation. A problem that has only grown in the wake of the pandemic.

“The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and the Children’s Hospital Association jointly declared a national emergency in children’s mental health. Citing the serious toll of the COVID-19 pandemic on top of existing challenges,” said Rep. Schlegel.

Each training session must be evidence-based, last for at least one hour, and be student-led with the help of educators and mental health professionals. Parents, however, can request their child be excused from the training if they choose. Tony McAlister spoke on behalf of a friend who lost their 19-year-old son in 2020 after he took his own life.

“Our kids spend most of their time in school and so I do feel even if there were a fiscal note attached to this, it is worth our investment in the future of our kids and so we highly support this bill,” said McAlister.

“It’s much needed that we talk to our kids about these issues. I know they’re very serious issues, but our kids are thinking about it, and some are actually doing it,” Rep. Schlegel added.

The bill received unanimous bipartisan support. Rep. Aimee Freeman, who’s a Democrat, even offered to co-sign it.

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