Wyoming schools could offer suicide prevention training - KOTA Territory News

Wyoming schools could offer suicide prevention training

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Wyoming has owned the country's highest suicide rate for two of the last three years and lawmakers want to change that trend.  They could start by bringing a suicide prevention training program to the state's schools.

The Legislative Joint Interim Education Committee started discussions this month and could have a bill ready by next year's session.

Butch and Ricki Barbe of Recluse believe this is a step in the right direction.

"I really think we do need that.  The statistics prove that Wyoming has a very deep problem," said Ricki Barbe.

Their son, Joshua committed suicide in 2000 when he was 16.

"You learn to cope with it.  But that hole will always be in your heart," said Butch Barbe.

"He'd been harassed.  We found notes and stuff, harassing notes," said Ricki Barbe.

So the two started an anti-harassment coalition.  That and other efforts led to the state passing an anti-bullying law.

Now lawmakers could require school staff to go through suicide prevention training, which 11 states are already doing.

"They all seem to believe that they're making progress and making a real dent in it," said John Patton, R-Sheridan, who is a member of the Education Committee.

The Campbell County School District, where Joshua went to school, has lost three students, two former students, and a teacher in the last two years to suicide and is now implementing prevention methods.

"They learn the warning signs of suicide and depression.  We've integrated bullying prevention into our strategic plan.  The goal for Campbell County School District is to reduce bullying by 20 percent by 2015," said student assistance coordinator Katie Jacobson.

The Barbes hope Wyoming adopts the act and more schools are better prepared to deal with suicidal students.

"We as adults, if we're aware of it, and we need to be more aware of it, can actually intervene and help that child so much," said Butch Barbe.

Most states that have passed the act require all school staff to undergo the suicide prevention training.  But Patton says that Wyoming may only require the schools to offer the training as an option to staff.

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