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Teen suicide prevention bill finds itself in limbo

Posted: 6:26 AM, Feb 10, 2018
Updated: 2018-02-10 13:26:11Z

A bill aimed to prevent teen suicide has found itself in limbo. 

Senate Bill 1391 was renamed The Mitch Warnock Act named after a Corona del Sol High School student lost to suicide.

The bill would require teachers to designate two of their existing training hours to learn the signs of suicide. 

"This bill doesn't ask anything other than to be present in their classrooms, and be able to say 'you know, you just look a little different than you did yesterday," said Karianna Blanchard, a parent, and proponent of the bill. 

Opponents of the bill say it's not the job of teachers.  

On Thursday the Chairman of the Senate Health Committee, Senator Nancy Barto's spokesperson told ABC15 the Senator, "has not determined whether to hear the bill. The committee has two more meetings to hear Senate bills this session."

The Mitch Warnock Act must pass both the Arizona Senate's health and education committees before being voted on. 

The news of the bill in limbo sent Blanchard and dozens of other parents to mobilize a letter writing and call-in campaign to both Senator Nancy Barto and Senator Sylvia Allen, Chairman of the Senate's Education Committee. 

"If you hear this at all, please please for the sake of beginning to save lives and change the tide in Arizona, please hear this bill." Blanchard urged. 

Tim Warnock is a teacher himself and proponent of the bill; he told ABC15 if the bill had been in place, he felt his son's life could've been saved.

Warnock and his wife were already seeing signs something wasn't right after their son Mitch's close friend took his life on Corona del Sol High School's campus in 2015. 

"He had some major signs that something was wrong, but suicide wasn't on our radar yet," said Warnock. 

Warnock said Mitch was popular, big-hearted and a top pole vaulter in the nation. 

"You're supposed to have your son admire you, my son was one of the greatest men I've ever met, not because of what he was overcoming but because of who he was," said Warnock.

When he and his wife started seeing signs, they got help.  But Warnock feels having teachers watching as well as a safety net would've helped further. 

According to the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention suicide is the leading cause of death in kids 10-14 and is the 8th leading cause of death overall in the state. 

The parent group pushing the bill in the East Valley said the number of teen suicides in this school year alone is now pushing 18. 

"It continues to be a crisis, and it's not looked at," Blanchard said.

"I'm not done, if this bill goes down this year, I'm not done," Warnock pledged.