Governor Jerry Brown’s signature last year on Assembly Bill 2246 set a national precedent, requiring schools to adopt policies covering suicide prevention and intervention. Earlier this month, Santa Barbara Unified School District appointed Assistant Superintendent of Student Services Frann Wageneck to oversee strategies to “specifically address the needs of students who are at high risk of suicide, including, but not limited to, students who are bereaved by suicide and other types of loss; students with disabilities, mental illness, or substance-use disorders; students who are experiencing homelessness or who are in out-of-home settings such as foster care; and students who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or questioning youth,” according to policy documents. The effort’s big-picture goal is “to destigmatize issues of mental health,” Wageneck told the Board of Education. “We are working on those adverse childhood experiences, looking at trauma early in life.”
In addition to training sessions held earlier this month for school counselors, the policy calls for coordination between the district, community organizations, health professionals, and parents and guardians to spot and respond appropriately to warning signs, cope with grief, and promote more positive connections among peers and between students and teachers and administrators. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among teens ages 15-19 nationwide, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.