Schools chief Sherri Ybarra encouraged Idahoans to come together to prioritize students’ mental health and reduce the teen suicide rate.
Speaking during the virtual Family and Community Engagement conference Tuesday, Ybarra urged any adults who work with children to sign up for free suicide prevention training that the State Department of Education began offering last month.
“I know from talking to students and educators that the social-emotional needs of our students have never been greater or more urgent, given the stress from the COVID-19 pandemic,” Ybarra said.
The SDE made 10,000 licenses available for QPR Gatekeeper Training in September. At last check, more than 8,000 licenses were available, an SDE spokeswoman said Tuesday. About 45 percent of those who have signed up identified themselves as teachers, with another 25 percent as staff or administrators. The rest include parents, other family members and community members, the SDE said.
The nationally recognized training takes about two hours to complete. Idahoans can apply online.
“I encourage anyone who interacts with students, whether you are a teacher, parent, or an administrator, school staff or a volunteer, a grandparent or a coach, please sign up for this training,” Ybarra said.
Idaho consistently has one of the highest suicide rates in the country. The latest data from the Idaho Youth Risk Behavior Survey indicates 22 percent of students had seriously considered attempting suicide, the highest level in 10 years, the SDE said.
Ybarra has consistently made student mental health a top issue.
She launched an anti-bullying campaign.
Ybarra, Gov. Brad Little and the 2020 Legislature agreed on $1 million in new funding for social-emotional learning.
And Ybarra and 2019-20 Teacher of the Year Stacie Lawler promoted mental health and social-emotional learning as a top statewide issue.
“Unless students have their basic needs met — you all know this — they cannot achieve their academic potential in the classroom,” Ybarra said.
The three-day FACE conference attracted 400 participants across the state and concludes Wednesday, the SDE said.
Tuesday’s speakers included Olympic gold medalist Kristin Armstrong and Karen Mapp, the faculty director for Harvard University’s education policy and management master’s program.
Click here to sign up for free QPR Gatekeeper suicide prevention training online.