Governor signs suicide and bullying prevention laws

(Photo: @TerryMcAuliffe/Twitter)

PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — A local suicide prevention foundation is applauding state and local efforts to help save lives.

Governor Terry McAuliffe signed Tuesday afternoon two bills at a high school in Northern Virginia that tackle bullying and suicide prevention.

One law will require schools to notify parents if their child is involved in bullying either as the victim or aggressor. The second requires school counselors to get training in bullying, suicide prevention and mental health disorders, including depression and substance abuse, when they are getting their initial state licenses or renewing one.

10 On Your Side spoke with Eric Peterson, co-founder of Norfolk’s Sarah Michelle Peterson Foundation, an organization aimed at suicide prevention through education. Peterson believes this is a step in the right direction, but not an all-encompassing solution.

“We don’t want to think that just because we’ve addressed bullying, we’ve addressed the entire complex topic of suicide,” he said. “The thing that we all need to remember is suicide is a very complex issue and when someone dies by suicide, it’s a multitude of factors.”

Those new laws take effect July 1. In the meantime, the Norfolk School Board will vote next month on a new suicide prevention policy. It would include education for staff and for students beginning in fourth grade.