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Bill would make mental health studies mandatory

February 10, 2021 GMT

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Lawmakers in North Dakota are considering a proposal to make mental health and wellness studies mandatory for middle and high school students.

According to health officials, North Dakota’s rate of teen suicide is well above the national average. While some schools have elements of mental wellness in the classroom, a proposed bill would have mandated resources to help them and schools would be given standards on how to handle students who need help.

Some teen suicide survivors came forward to tell their stories at the Capitol Tuesday.

Kennedy Gjovik told lawmakers her first attempt at suicide was in middle school.

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“I had all the warning signs, but no one noticed. Or even if they did notice, no one spoke up. And after getting that message, I decided I was done fighting. That night, I made my first suicide attempt, and was the first time I had ever hanged myself,” Gjovik said.

After other attempts at taking her own life, Gjovik said it wasn’t until she switched schools that she started getting substantial help.

It’s that disparity that lawmakers are trying to resolve, KFYR-TV reported.

“We can do this, but we don’t have boots in the field to provide the instruction or the interventions that are needed. And until we do that, we can’t move this forward,” said Sen. Joan Heckaman.

The bill also allows for school districts to collaborate in the classroom and with distance learning so that rural schools can get help to their students.