Today the Senate unanimously passed a bill from Sen. Sharon Brown that would promote a comprehensive approach to suicide prevention and behavioral health in higher education, with enhanced services to help students who are veterans.
The bill is a result of a task force on mental health and suicide prevention in higher education, created by lawmakers in 2015, which identified four recommendations to increase awareness and prevention of suicide at Washington’s post-secondary institutions.
“This bill is going to go a long way towards helping our veterans and students on our college campuses,” said Brown, R-Kennewick. “It was shocking what happened recently with the suicide death on the WSU-Pullman campus of a star student athlete.
“It is critically important that we have an honest conversation about this issue. I hope this bill will put a spotlight on all deaths by suicide, and help us to identify the causes of on-campus suicides, as well as get the resources we need to hopefully prevent the tragic loss of life.”
Senate Bill 6514 would require the Department of Health to collaborate with the Student Achievement Council to develop a statewide resource for behavioral health and suicide prevention for the state’s post-secondary institutions.
Brown’s bill also would create a grant program to help post-secondary institutions create partnerships with health-care entities to provide mental-health services on campus. In addition, it directs the state Institute for Public Policy to conduct a study on academic stress in higher-education settings.
Brown said her measure represents a needed first step in addressing the cause of college suicide, and urged the House of Representatives to pass the measure without delay.
“I am happy we were able to get a unanimous vote out of the Senate,” said Brown. “I hope that my friends in the House of Representatives share our view that the time to act is now. There is an urgent need for suicide prevention in higher education. As we heard in testimony on this bill, there is currently no overall strategy, resources, or funding available for prevention or intervention. That has to change!
“Every student dealing with stress, every veteran on campus suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder must know that they can reach out for help, and that if they do, that critical aid will be there for them.”
Brown has made mental-health and suicide prevention – especially for Washington’s young people – one of her top priorities in the Legislature. Last year she authored the Youth Behavioral Health Protection Act, which requires the state Health Care Authority to take action aimed at facilitating integration of behavioral health with primary care. She also successfully fought for an unprecedented level of funding in the state’s budget for mental-health needs.