Gov Larry Hogan signed Lauryn’s Law last week, which will require counselors in Maryland schools to receive training in suicide prevention. With the move, the state will join 22 others across the country that require suicide-prevention training, at least at some levels, by 2016.
The law is named after Lauryn Santiago, a 15-year-old freshman at Laurel High School in Prince George’s County. Her mother had pushed for the law after Lauryn committed suicide.
Lauryn had been depressed as a result of bullying, her mother has said, and she had sought help from school counselors before taking her own life. But according to Lauryn’s mother, no counselor ever contacted Lauryn to offer any help in the critical month before her suicide.
All counselors in Maryland public schools should complete the required mental health training course first by July 2016 under the new law. After that, school counselors will have to complete a training class in mental health and substance abuse as a part of their certification renewal every five years.
Suicide is the second-leading cause of death among people ages 15 to 24. “This is an issue, almost like a bomb waiting to explode,” Lauryn’s mother was quoted as saying at a hearing in Annapolis to plead for passage of the law.
“Regular education and training for school personnel in how to recognize and respond to signs of suicide risk is a crucial step toward reducing the rate of youth suicide,” the Washington Post quoted Nicole Gibson, senior manager of state advocacy at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, as saying. “As children and teens spend a significant amount of their young lives in school, the personnel that interact with them on a daily basis are in a prime position to recognize these signs and make the appropriate referrals for help.”
Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that 4,878 15- to 24-year-olds killed themselves in 2013, up from 3,988 just 10 years earlier. That’s an increase in suicide by young people of more than 22 percent in just a decade. The estimated population of 15- to 24-year-olds in the US in 2000 was about 39.2 million, and that in 2013 was about 43.8 million, an increase of 11.7 percent.