SACRAMENTO – Assemblymember Rudy Salas (D-Bakersfield) has introduced legislation – Assembly Bill (AB) 58 – to address the increase in youth suicides and self-harm across the state by improving youth suicide prevention within schools. A State Auditor’s report requested by Assemblymember Salas, released earlier this year, found that Local Educational Agencies (LEAs) lack the resources and policies necessary to effectively address rising rates of youth suicide and self-harm.
“No child should die by suicide or feel like they do not have the help they need around them—we can and must do more to prevent future tragedies,” said Assemblymember Salas. “AB 58 will give schools the resources and training necessary to improve care for students that are at-risk and reduce the troubling rise in suicides and self-harm.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), suicide was the second leading cause of death nationwide among young people ages 10 to 24 in 2017. Remarkably, a 2019 report by the United Health Foundation found that California was one of seven states with the most significant increases in teen suicide rates from 2016 to 2019.
In a tragic example that occurred recently in San Joaquin County, a sixth-grade student shot himself while on a distance learning Zoom call. The State Auditor’s report noted that, “According to the National Association of School Psychologists, youth who are contemplating suicide frequently give warning signs of their distress but are not likely to seek help directly. Thus, training school staff to respond to youth who exhibit warning signs of suicide is imperative.”
AB 58 will require LEAs to provide suicide awareness and prevention training at the beginning of each school year to teachers. The bill also requires LEAs to review and update its policy on pupil suicide prevention, and revise its training materials to incorporate best practices identified by the California Department of Education (CDE) in the department’s model policy. Additionally, the bill requires the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) to create a pilot program to establish a school health center at five LEAs located in counties with high rates of youth suicide and self-harm. It also requires CDPH to provide technical assistance to CDE and LEAs to ensure LEAs take full advantage of federal funds for Medi-Cal eligible students.
The full audit report addressing youth suicide can be found here.
Assemblymember Salas represents part of the City of Bakersfield, the cities of Arvin, Hanford, Corcoran, Delano, Lemoore, McFarland, Shafter, Wasco, and the communities of Armona, Avenal, Buttonwillow, Home Garden, Kettleman City, Lamont, Lost Hills, Stratford and Weedpatch.