New law requires suicide prevention programs at higher ed institutions

Brandon Paykamian • Jul 6, 2019 at 4:41 PM

According to statistics from the Tennessee Department of Health and Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network, suicide is the ninth-leading cause of death in Tennessee and the second-leading cause of death among college students.

In 2017, there were 142 Tennessee youth deaths by suicide, representing the 10-24 age group. 

In an effort to help turn the tide of increasing suicide rates among young people in universities and colleges, state legislators recently pushed a new law requiring higher education institutions to develop a suicide prevention plan and distribute the plan to students every semester. The law went into effect Monday. 

“Unfortunately, suicide is a significant cause of death for college students, which is why we passed House Bill 1354 this year,” Rep. Matthew Hill, R-Jonesborough, said in an emailed statement to the Press. “This measure will require our public institutions of higher education to develop and implement suicide prevention plans, which will hopefully curb this dangerous trend among our college population.” 

State Sen. Rusty Crowe, R-Johnson City, said the new legislation gives comprehensive guidelines on what higher education institutions should do to bolster mental health among their student bodies. 

“The new law requires public institutions of higher education to develop and implement suicide prevention plans in consultation with campus and community mental health experts or the Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network. The state institutions will then communicate the plans to students, faculty and staff,” he said. 

Officials at East Tennessee State University said they’re already well-prepared to comply with the new requirement through counselors and awareness campaigns.  

“ETSU has a number of services and programs in place to address suicide awareness and prevention. This is an issue that we take very seriously. Our plan is to bring a team of staff together and include all of these initiatives as part of the institution’s overall suicide prevention plan for our students, faculty and staff,” Dean of Students Michelle Byrd said.  

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