WYOMING— The Wyoming House of Representatives shot down a bill Wednesday that would require suicide prevention education for students in Wyoming public schools.
The bill failed, with the House voting 25-34, with one representative abstaining.
House Bill 62, sponsored by the House Education Committee, called for school districts to include suicide prevention instruction in a health and safety program, “in an appropriate manner,” including age-appropriate and evidence-based instruction. The education would expand on and help students recognize behaviors in their peers who are at risk for suicide.
Currently, Wyoming educators participate in suicide prevention education. House Bill 62, would provide education geared towards students. House Minority Leader Cathy Connolly said, “these kids testified that they wished they knew what to do. If they knew what to do they may have behaved differently, they might have saved a life.”
During the emotional debate, Rep. John Bear, R-Gillette, suggested that children and families should rely on faith-based guidance. He said, “we’ve created a situation where people do not look in the right place for the answers to this,” adding, “until we’re prepared to change the way we teach children and the way we’ve pushed our faith out of the schools, we cannot hold these schools accountable for dealing with this particular issue.” Bear shared his own experience with suicide. His son, Taylor took his own life in 2011. Rep. Bear voted against the bill.
According to the American Association of Suicidology, Wyoming is ranked second in the nation for the highest suicide rates. Following the debate on the House floor, Teton County Rep. Mike Yin, tweeted, “The debate on “HB62 – Suicide prevention was deeply troubling.”
In the U.S, children age 10-14, experienced the largest increase in suicide rates from 2000 to 2018, at 95 percent, according to the State Health Access Data Assistance Center. Rep. Karlee Provenza, D-Laramie, tweeted, “Young people came to us to educate them on how to help their peers considering suicide. HB0062 failed introduction in Wyoming which ranks in the top 2 states in suicide rates. My heart is heavy. Young people, I see you. People struggling with suicide, I value you.”
According to the United Health Foundation, populations with disproportionately high suicide rates include those living in rural areas compared to those living in urban areas. Wyoming is the least populated state in the U.S, with about 578,000 residents.
The bill would not require any funding from the state.
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