Last September, Education Commission of the States released a blog post recognizing National Suicide Prevention and Awareness Month and highlighting then-recent legislative action related to suicide prevention. Ensuring students receive the supports and resources they need continues to be at the forefront of state policymakers’ minds. Activity on this topic in 2022 focused on data collection, 9-8-8 suicide and crisis lifeline promotion, and student mental health support.
Recent survey results from the American College Health Association’s National College Health Assessment found that 3.1% of undergraduate students attempted suicide within the past 12 months. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention notes that suicide is the second leading cause of death for college students. Similarly, a 2020 survey from the Centers for Disease Control found that 25.5% of respondents aged 18-24 seriously considered attempting suicide in the 30 days prior to taking the survey. * A 2022 EdWeek article noted stark statistics regarding suicide among middle school students, including that:
- Death rates by suicide increased in the five- to nine-year-old age group and the 10-14 group.
- Boys aged 10-14 had a 50% higher death rate by suicide than girls aged 10-14.
- 6% of sixth graders seriously considered attempting suicide.
- 1% of seventh graders seriously considered attempting suicide.
- 7% of eighth graders seriously considered attempting suicide.
To help address suicide ideation among students, the national 9-8-8 suicide and crisis lifeline (referred to as “9-8-8”) was unveiled in July 2022 with the assistance of a $400 million investment to streamline the rollout process for states. The Biden Administration also released a fact sheet detailing some of the financial investments toward student mental health and suicide prevention efforts. The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, passed in June 2022, includes $500 million for the Mental Health and Service Professional Demonstration Grant Program and $500 million for the School Based Mental Health Services Grant Program.
Similar to 2021, states continued the trend of requiring student identification cards in secondary schools to include the 9-8-8 lifeline. Connecticut, Delaware, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Oklahoma and Tennessee enacted such legislation in 2022. Kansas enacted a bill encouraging local education agencies (LEAs) to include the 9-8-8 lifeline on student identification cards. Additionally, Delaware, New Hampshire and New Jersey require postsecondary institutions to include the 9-8-8 hotline on student identification cards.
States also sought to require LEAs to provide suicide awareness and prevention training for certain staff members and students. Indiana enacted legislation mandating individuals hired with an adjunct teaching permit to receive training on youth suicide awareness and prevention within their first 90 days of employment. Louisiana enacted legislation requiring LEAs to provide age-appropriate and evidence-based training on suicide prevention, student safety, violence and social isolation for students in grades six through 12.
States also enacted legislation to allocate funding to suicide prevention and awareness efforts. Michigan awarded $62.8 million to the state’s LEAs; the agencies receiving funding are encouraged to provide suicide prevention education and counseling. A separate allocation of $2 million was made to LEAs for them to provide grades six through 12 students and early higher education students with support for mental well-being and tools for suicide prevention.
Pennsylvania also enacted legislation to provide grants to LEAs. The grants are meant for suicide awareness and prevention curricula as well as training for school employees and students related to the identification of the signs of anxiety, depression, suicide or self-harm and best practices for seeking mental health assistance.
Policymakers and education practitioners will likely continue to focus much of their attention on student mental health. States’ efforts to improve student mental health include increasing access to in-school mental health services in secondary and higher education institutions and increasing the number of mental health service providers. Increasing mental health knowledge and services to students may help alleviate mental health struggles for some before suicidal ideation occurs.
* The CDC used the phrase “seriously considered attempting suicide” in its survey on student mental health, substance abuse and suicidal ideation during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. To retain accuracy of the questions used in data collection, we’ve included this phrasing in the post, but we recognize that all kinds of suicidal ideations are serious to individuals and their loved ones.