Toward an honest conversation about preventing suicide

Feb 12, 2018

— February 12, 2018

As someone who values our Second Amendment rights I am very cautious about bills that include the words “firearm rights” in the title. But a few weeks ago I helped pass a carefully negotiated bill that would allow people to voluntarily waive their firearm rights in the interests of preventing suicide (their own). I think that legislation has more potential to protect lives than any ban on bumpstocks.

This past week I helped pass another bill intended to reduce suicides. It’s Senate Bill 6514, from my fellow southeast Washington colleague, Senator Sharon Brown of Kennewick. As someone who’s more interested in the quality of the bills we pass than the quantity, I see this as one of the more important pieces of legislation we can put through during this short session.

This bipartisan legislation would promote a comprehensive approach to suicide prevention and behavioral health at our colleges and universities, with enhanced services for students who are veterans. The Department of Health and Student Achievement Council would be the state agencies involved.

The goal is to enhance mental-health services on campus. Also, the state Institute for Public Policy would be tasked with conducting a study on academic stress in higher-education settings.

Senator Brown’s legislation stems from the findings of a 2016 task force. It’s coincidence that she introduced her bill just six days after the suicide of WSU quarterback Tyler Hilinski. But that young man’s death certainly put a bigger spotlight on the issues this bill wants to address.

I don’t know if there’s more academic stress or financial stress or social stress on college students than there was in my day. Probably all of the above. Either way, as the task force’s report put it, no student should feel that suicide is the only option.

Senator Brown hopes her bill, which passed unanimously, leads to an “honest conversation” about this issue. She hopes it will help identify the causes of on-campus suicide and provide resources for intervention and prevention. She wants every student dealing with stress, and every veteran on campus suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, to be able to reach out for help. So do I.