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Thousands of Arizona teachers now getting special suicide prevention training mandated by law

Teen suicide, stress, anxiety
Posted at 4:28 PM, Sep 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-12 13:47:48-04

An Arizona law mandating teachers and school staff to get special suicide prevention training once every three years is already in effect in Arizona.

Despite the pandemic, ABC15 is learning many school districts made this training available to teachers over the summer. It was put together by the Arizona Healthcare Containment System, or AHCCCS and the State Department of Education.

Tim Warnock said many teachers he knew had already taken the training. During a recent youth mental health summit, officials said 7,000 Arizona teachers had already received the suicide prevention training. This was welcome news for Warnock, who lost his son to suicide in 2017. The Mitch Warnock Act is named after his son, who was a student at Corona Del Sol High School.

"I think most districts really understood that you can't have good test scores when kid's classmates are dying," said Warnock. He added that he realized it was not an easy subject to talk about, but the sensitive topic was not being discussed inside schools. Not just with teachers getting the specialized training, but with students also sitting through presentations on recognizing the warning signs and being made aware of the resources out there to help them get through a personal crisis.

Warnock said being a teacher, he had many students who came up to him to discuss private matters they did not feel comfortable sharing with their parents.

"We are the eyes in the trenches," said Warnock.

"We are not asking the teachers to counsel the kids. The people in the trenches recognize this kid is struggling. We refer them, kind of like a 911 call to somebody who has more training, to a school counselor," he added.

Arizona State Representative Jeff Weninger, one of several lawmakers who threw his support behind the Mitch Warnock Act, said he was happy to hear that the Chandler Unified School District already had about 80% of their staff undergo this training.

"These teachers, they are the ones who live this. They are the ones who are seeing these kids every day, seeing the pain they might be in," said Weninger.

Warnock added that he believes bringing the sensitive topic of teen suicide and warning signs to the forefront among both students and teachers is making a difference. He saw it first hand when the mother of a young girl who had sat through a presentation on warning signs, came up to him.

"She had told her mother she actually had a plan put together, but when she sat through this presentation, she heard the warning signs, and she said, oh my gosh, that is me. That beautiful kid got up and walked out of class and walked straight to a counselor and got the help she needed," said Warnock.

The state is now making the suicide prevention training available to the community. To get more information visit: https://cms.azed.gov/home/GetDocumentFile?id=5ee8091603e2b30fc8020968. You can also learn more about Project Aware at https://www.azed.gov/wellness/projectaware.