With a 30-1 vote, the California State Senate approved AB 2198 by Assemblymember Marc Levine (D-San Rafael) to assure that psychologists, therapists, social workers, and counselors are trained to assess, treat, and refer suicidal individuals.
“This legislation will save lives,” said Levine. “AB 2198 is based on the recommendations of experts in suicide prevention. When mental health professionals are trained to detect and treat suicidal patients and clients, they will be better prepared to deal with these difficult situations. This bill will reduce the number of suicides in California.”
Over the last decade suicide rates in California have increased. In 2012, the most recent year in which data is available, there were nearly 4,000 suicide deaths — the highest number in the previous 20 years. Among Californians age 10-65, suicide is the fourth leading cause of death.
“AB 2198 will make the difference between life and death for some patients. In this case, time is not money, it is lives,” said Craig Lomax, a parent advocate for suicide prevention. “We cannot afford to wait for these professions to gradually admit to insufficient training and make adjustments.”
Almost 45% of those who die by suicide have seen a mental health professional in the year prior to their deaths, with about 20 percent having seen such a professional in the month prior to their deaths.
“By creating standards for suicide prevention training for specified mental health professionals, we can ensure that these mental health professionals (who provide services to individuals living with mental illness) are in a position to identify and address potential signs that the patient is at risk of death by suicide,” said Jessica Cruz, MPA/HS, Executive Director of National Alliance on Mental Health California.
Other states have enacted similar laws. Washington and Kentucky have passed similar legislation. AB 2198 will apply to psychologists, marriage and family therapists, education psychologists, clinical social workers, and clinical counselors. The “National Strategy for Suicide Prevention” recommends this type of training.