“As responsible adults, we must be sensitive to the difficulties young people face and provide assistance as they navigate adolescence,” Assemblyman James Ramos, D-Highland, is quoted as saying in a news release issued Thursday, Oct. 10, after Newsom signed Ramos’ Assembly Bill 1767. “Offering age appropriate suicide prevention education is one of the ways we can connect the community and create a culture of positive mental health outcomes.”
The newly signed bill builds on AB 2246, approved in 2016, which required school districts to have a suicide-prevention policy that addresses the needs of their highest-risk students in seventh through 12th grades. Former Gov. Jerry Brown signed AB 2639 in 2018. That bill required districts to update those policies every five years. Ramos’ new bill requires districts serving kindergarten through sixth grades to create suicide-prevention policies.
AB 1767 was the second of two suicide-related bills Ramos introduced this year.
AB 34, the first bill he introduced as an assemblyman, attempts to tackle one of the issues youth face that experts have linked to suicide – bullying. It requires school districts to post bullying prevention policies online as well as information about cyber bullying. Newsom signed it Sept. 12.
On Wednesday, Oct. 2, Newsom signed AB 984, authored by Assemblyman Tom Lackey, R-Palmdale. The bill allows taxpayers to send their excess tax payments to a new Suicide Prevention Voluntary Contribution Fund. The fund would award grants and help fund crisis centers that are active members of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
Suicide was the second-leading cause of death for Americans ages 10 to 24 in 2017, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. And emergency room visits for children and young adults ages 5 to 18 who have had suicidal thoughts or have attempted suicide have almost doubled since 2007, according to American Academy of Pediatrics.
In 2018, 53 minors killed themselves in four Southern California counties: 28 in Los Angeles County, 10 in Orange County, six in Riverside County and nine in San Bernardino County, according to the coroner’s offices in each county.
About one in five California high school students has considered killing themselves in the past year, according to a Southern California News Group analysis of surveys given in 70% of California public school districts.