A new law in Maine will require training for all school employees, facility and staff to recognize the warning signs of suicide. The aim isn’t to equip these workers with the skills necessary to address mental illness, but to help them understand when students are in trouble, and get them the help they need.

Maine is one of 11 states to adopt some form of mandatory suicide prevention training for school employees, according to The Bangor Daily News. It is also one of six states to receive a new $1.2 million federal suicide prevention grant to spend on outreach and suicide screening through school-based health centers. Training will begin this spring, the Lewiston-Auburn Sun Journal reports.

Exactly what the training programs will consist of has not yet been established, according to The Bangor Daily News, but instruction will more than likely be provided through partnerships with already-established suicide prevention resources in the state, such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Maine or Lifelines, a suicide awareness and prevention pilot program started in 2000.

After participating in the program, educators and school employees will not have the skills necessary to intervene in a potential suicide, but they will be able to recognize the warning signs. These signs may be obvious, with students talking about or threatening to take their own life, or more subtle, with attitudes of hopelessness or purposelessness, withdrawal from family and friends, uncontrolled rage or mood swings, according to Lifelines' materials.

At least 15 Maine teenagers took their own lives in 2013, nearly twice the number that committed suicide in 2012 the The Bangor Daily News reports. At the last year complete Centers for Disease Control data was available, 2010, Maine had the 11th-highest rate of teen suicide in the country, according to The Lewiston-Auburn Sun Journal.

“If one teacher sees signs and helps that student, isn’t it worth it?” Grace Eaton, who lost her son 16 years ago to suicide, told The Bangor Daily News. “If I could go back 16 years myself, of course I would do things differently, the things I know today. I didn’t get that chance.”

If you or someone you know needs help, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.


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