The state Senate approved a joint resolution, AJR-26, on May 30 that would make September “Suicide Prevention Month.” The measure now awaits the governor’s signature.

Statistics from the American Association of Suicidology show that in the United States, one young person under the age of 24 dies of suicide every one hour and 43 minutes. For every suicide death, another 200 teens and young adults make suicide attempts. According to the 2015 New Jersey Youth Suicide Report released by the New Jersey Department of Children and Families, 4,796 young people ages 10 to 24 made suicide attempts between 2012 and 2014 that resulted in hospitalization, and 265 of the attempts were fatal.

NJSBA Executive Director Dr. Lawrence S. Feinsod urged the governor to sign the legislation. Since October, the NJSBA Task Force on Mental Health Services in the Public Schools has been studying the issue, and its report, “Building a Foundation for Hope,” will be released this summer.

“As many as one in eight children – and 25% of teens – are contending with diagnosable anxiety disorders,” said Feinsod, citing findings of the Association’s task force. “Left unattended, these issues can lead to children harming themselves — or others.”

Suicide rates are increasing fastest among children from the ages of 10 to 17 in New Jersey and in the nation. Last week, the state’s poison control center reported that 100 New Jersey children under age 13 had attempted suicide by intentional drug overdose since January 2018.

“The joint resolution raises public awareness of the risk factors and warning signs for youth suicide,” Feinsod said.

The NJSBA mental health task force is comprised of local school board members, superintendents and mental health experts. The group has studied how effective delivery of mental health services can improve student health and wellness, school climate, and school security.

The task force researched dozens of studies and interviewed school officials, school psychologists and social workers, superintendents, parents and children. More than 50 school districts responded to surveys and interview requests to provide information. The final report will offer districts possible strategies, programs and ideas that might be effective and appropriate for their students.