House approves suicide prevention bill named after Portsmouth teenager
With a vote in the House today, the General Assembly approved legislation sponsored by Representative Terri Cortvriend and Senator James A. Seveney to require all public school districts to adopt suicide prevention policies and train annually all staff in suicide awareness and prevention.
The Nathan Bruno and Jason Flatt Act (2021-H 5353, 2021-S 0031), which is now heading to the governor, would require all school staff – including teachers, administration, guards, staff lunch, substitutes, nurses, coaches and coaches staff, even if they are volunteers, should be trained in suicide prevention and awareness. The state Department of Education would establish the guidelines for the training program.
The bill is named after Nathan Bruno, a 15-year-old Portsmouth High School student who committed suicide in 2018. Part of the bill is based on state law passed in Tennessee and 19 other states, named after Jason Flatt, a 16-year-old from Nashville who committed suicide.
“Suicide awareness and prevention are essential for students of all ages,” Senator Seveney (D-Dist. 11, Portsmouth, Bristol, Tiverton) said in a statement. “We need to take steps to make sure all adults they interact with in school are able to recognize the signs of at-risk students. The tragic death of Nathan Bruno has shown us how important it is for everyone who works with students to recognize the signs and know how to properly handle these situations. It can save children’s lives.
According to Representative Cortvriend (D-Dist. 72, Portsmouth, Middletown), “Our state and our country are facing alarming suicide rates. Children of all ages face pressures from all angles in today’s society. Social media, self-acceptance, bullies, drugs and alcohol, athletics, image, relationships and family issues are just a few of the many pressures our children face every day. . Children need the support of adults in their lives, and this bill works to ensure that the adults they see every day in school are ready to recognize their needs and connect them. to help them if necessary.
Several of Bruno’s friends have formed a non-profit association called “Be Great for Nate” and an associated program called the Every Student Initiative. They approached the sponsors with the ideas that became this bill. For more information on the Every Student initiative and mental health awareness resources, visit bg4n.org/esi.
Suicide is the second leading cause of death among Rhode Islanders aged 15 to 34, according to the Department of Health. In 2017, 15.9% of high school students surveyed in Rhode Island had considered suicide and 10.5% said they had attempted suicide. . One in nine middle school students surveyed in Rhode Island that year said they had made a suicide plan.