ST PAUL, Minn. — A team of state agencies is encouraging teachers and educational staffers across Minnesota to take part in a suicide prevention program that seems to be working.
The joint effort by the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) and the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) aims to support students’ mental and emotional well-being through "innovative and effective suicide prevention training" offered by a company called Kognito that launched in the state in 2020. The virtual sessions walk participants through real-life conversations regarding mental health, giving educators who work face-to-face with children feedback on how to provide support.
“We want teachers to feel confident and comfortable in supporting their students' well-being,” Minnesota Commissioner of Health Dr. Brooke Cunningham said in a released statement. “We can all play a role in preventing suicide in Minnesota, and we want to remind all Minnesotans that hope is possible and help is available.”
Training will be provided free for all educational staffers through June of 2024 via modules that are posted on the MDH website. This will likely be the last opportunity to access this specialized training as Kognito plans on discontinuing the program.
“We need to do everything in our power to support students’ mental health,” said Minnesota Commissioner of Education Willie Jett. “We are encouraged by how many educators have completed the trainings so far and now hope that all educators will take advantage of this expanded opportunity.”
Both the suicide training and Minnesota's 988 lifeline phone support program are strategies of the Minnesota Suicide Prevention State Plan released in February.
There is a reason state health and education officials are prioritizing this topic - in 2022, preliminary data showed Minnesota had 835 suicide deaths, the highest number ever recorded in Minnesota. Fifty-one of those deaths involved people ages 10-19 years old. MDH says this age group made up 38% of all self-harm injuries treated in hospitals from 2016-2020, with more than 20,000 cases.
For the past 20 years, the number of suicides in Minnesota has steadily increased, mirroring patterns across the United States.
If you or someone you know is facing a mental health crisis, there is help available from the following resources:
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