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Herbert signs legislation to prevent teen suicide

Published on NewsOK Modified: May 18, 2013 at 3:21 pm •  Published: May 18, 2013
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MAGNA, Utah (AP) — Gov. Gary Herbert visited a high school in the Salt Lake City suburb of Magna rocked by a recent string of suicides to discuss the problem and sign legislation meant to prevent it.

Herbert on Friday heard suggestions on how to deal with teen suicides from students at Cyprus High.

"Events like this greatly affect Cyprus High School and the Magna community," senior Jane Burns told the governor, calling the death of one of her friends earlier this school year "the worst day of my life."

Herbert signed three bills designed to help prevent teen bullying and suicide, including one to require school districts and charter schools to implement suicide prevention programs for junior high and high school students.

Another measure will require schools to notify parents if their children are bullied or threaten suicide, while another will ask school districts to hold annual seminars for parents on bullying, mental health, drug abuse and Internet safety.

The Legislature passed the bills earlier this year after a series of high-profile teen suicides in the state, including one involving a 14-year-old boy who shot himself in front of some of his classmates in Taylorsville in December.

Utah has the 11th-highest rate of suicide among 18- to 24-year-olds, according to the Utah Health Department. And the rate of suicide among Utah residents younger than 17 climbed by a third from 2009 to 2010, the most recent year for which statistics are available.

Nationally, almost 16 percent of high school students surveyed said they seriously considered suicide during the past year, according to 2011 data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

When Herbert asked how many Cyprus students knew someone who committed or attempted suicide, some 95 percent raised their hands.

"That's an alarming number," he said, urging students to be inclusive to classmates and to greet 13 students they're not friends with each day.