2018 News Releases

Tower Foundation, AG Derek Schmidt launch Youth Suicide Prevention Task Force

Release Date: Jun 12, 2018

Group will survey prevention efforts already underway, recommend further steps to reduce youth suicide rate

TOPEKA – (June 12, 2018) – A new task force will survey efforts underway in Kansas to reduce the incidence of youth suicide and recommend by year’s end further steps that could be taken, Attorney General Derek Schmidt and Dr. Walt Menninger announced today.

Between 2005 and 2015, the number of suicides in Kansas by persons 18 years of age or younger rose to 2.5 from 1.1 per 100,000 population, according to data compiled by the State Child Death Review Board. The data is captured visually in this chart:

Youth Suicide Rate, 2005-2015

In its most recent report, the board advised that by better understanding the precipitating events leading to youth suicide, our state would be better equipped to understand these deaths and learn more to prevent them.

In response to that advice, Schmidt asked the Tower Mental Health Foundation to collaborate with the attorney general’s office by sponsoring the task force. The group will survey and report on efforts already underway to counter youth suicide and recommend further steps to address the situation.

“The death by suicide of even one child is too many,” Schmidt said. “For the past 10 years, the youth suicide trend has moved the wrong direction in Kansas. While many good efforts are already underway around our state, we’re asking this task force to raise the profile of the issue and to be a catalyst for discussion about what more should be done.”

Dr. Menninger said sponsoring the task force is a natural fit for the foundation.

“The Tower Mental Health Foundation already had decided this year to support efforts to reduce the incidence of suicide in Kansas,” said Dr. Menninger, who chairs the foundation’s board of trustees. “This task force focused on youth is welcome and appropriate, and we hope by working together we can improve the situation.”

Members of the task force are:

  • Jennifer Schmidt (co-chair), Clinical Associate Professor of Law, University of Kansas
  • Dr. Andy Tompkins (co-chair), Retired Educator
  • Senator Molly Baumgardner, Chair, Senate Education Committee
  • Kearny County Deputy Sheriff Randy Combs, Past President, Kansas Juvenile Officer Association
  • Dr. Leo Herrman, Associate Professor of Psychology, Ft. Hays State University
  • Representative Russ Jennings, Chair, House Corrections and Juvenile Justice Committee
  • Kathryn Mosher, MS MBA, Executive Director, Central Kansas Mental Health Center
  • Dorthy Stucky Halley, Director of Victims Services Division, Office of the Kansas Attorney General
  • Dr. Randy Watson, Commissioner of Education

The attorney general asked the task force to focus on three specific tasks and to produce a report by the end of the year. The requested areas of focus are:

  • Surveying ongoing local and state efforts to combat youth suicide through the State of Kansas.
  • Reviewing the Safe2Tell phone application and similar methods aimed at increasing communication with youth needing assistance and effective reporting of stressors on young people.
  • Making recommendations for changes in practice, policy or law aimed at preventing youth suicide in Kansas.

The initial meeting of the task force will be Friday, June 29, at 9 a.m. in Room 101C of the Topeka-Shawnee County Public Library, 1515 SW 10th Ave., Topeka. A copy of the tentative agenda for this first meeting is available at http://bit.ly/2Jx1Gki.

The task force will conduct other public meetings around the state later this summer and fall. Groups or individuals working in youth suicide prevention and wishing to present information to the task force should contact the attorney general’s Victims Services Division at general@ag.ks.gov or by phone at (800) 828-9745.

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