PHOENIX — Teachers, counselors and principals in public school districts and charter schools must receive suicide awareness and prevention training at least every three years under legislation signed by Gov. Doug Ducey.
The bill sponsored by Democratic Sen. Sean Bowie of Phoenix passed the Legislature unanimously and the Republican governor signed it Wednesday.
The law is named after Mitch Warnock, a student at Corona Del Sol High School in Tempe who died of suicide at age 18. His parents advocated for the legislation.
"I just feel he's honored, and I—I'm proud his name is on there," said Tim Warnock, Mitch's dad.
The law requires schools to train teachers working with students in grades 6-12 to identify the warning signs of suicidal behavior in students—signs a parent might be too close to see.
The state Medicaid program will develop training materials.
"We want to bring awareness to that to make sure educators are trained on this issue, that we can help these young people before they make that decision," Tim Warnock said. "The kid lives, the kid gets support. There is not an empty desk in your classroom."
The state Health Services Department says 50 Arizona adolescents and teens died by suicide in 2017.
"Not a single one of them deserved to get to that level of hopelessness, to get to the point where, 'I don't want to live anymore," Tim Warnock said.
Warnock said he hopes the law will help others avoid the heartbreak his family went through.
"Really, it doesn't do anything for us. Mitchell is still gone. I can't hug him. I can't high-five him," he said. "It's not about the name. It's about the work. It's about that safety net that we needed to be there—that needed to be there a long time ago."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.