Maine Mothers Fight for Suicide Prevention

Terry Stackhouse

Updated 2 years ago

A newly passed state mandate will soon provide an easier pathway for students in crisis. Now anyone receiving a paycheck from a public high school is required to undergo a course in suicide prevention. Last week that one issue united both branches of the Maine state legislature and Governor LePage. The cost for state-wide education is an estimated $44,000 annually, but to the mothers supporting this legislation, knowing their work could save lives is priceless. “Everyone has now voted. The chair will close the vote,” said Maine Speaker of the House Mark Eves. “I find that it is the most important bill that I have ever presented and I can’t see any other bill being more important than this one,” said Rep. Paul Gilbert of Jay. An Act to Increase Suicide Awareness and Prevention in Maine Public Schools is a work of passion for Paul Gilbert. “This bill is so important. The life of youngsters is so important that this is one bill that should be supported regardless.”The Democratic State Representative is sponsoring legislation that would require school employees to undergo training in suicide prevention. An education that mothers of suicide victims say could have saved their child’s life. “I missed the signs. I missed the opportunity to save him and I think he got into this place of hopelessness, he felt hapless, and he felt that it was just, he couldn’t get there,” said Grace Eaton of Livermore falls. In 1997 she lost her son to suicide. Now she’s fighting alongside Gilbert for LD 609 to pass. “As a parent who has lost a child, this is the most devastating thing that has happened and can happen to a family, to a community, to your friends, to have you take your life,” said Eaton.In March, a 13-year-old student at Mount View Middle School in Thorndike took her own life, prompting a community forum to learn about the signs of suicide, and how to cope with the pain.”Are you okay, are you feeling suicidal? I would not be afraid to say that word,” said Cheryl Morin, a guest speaker who lost her son to suicide. “I sometimes say it is like taking CPR. Why not have the knowledge in case you need it.” “Suicide prevention is an important topic for families to really understand that usually in any circumstance of suicide, there have been some red flags. There has been something that has occurred prior to the actual event that people only afterwards talk about,” said Heather Perry, Superintendent of RSU 3. But those red flags aren’t always easy to catch. That’s why Nancy Thompson of Cape Elizabeth supported Gilbert’s bill. She hopes the “gate-keeper” training will help school officials pick up on signs that could prevent the unthinkable. “And I wasn’t afraid to go ahead and speak out about it and I’m not. And I say to people that I am going to go to my grave speaking about it because if I can save one kid, I’ve done my job,” said Thompson. Last month, both the Maine House and Senate unanimously passed LD 609, and with Governor LePage’s signature, it became law. “The bill has been passed to be enacted as a mandate,” said Maine House Speaker Mark Eves. “If we save one child in every school across the state of Maine, we have saved thousands of kids,” said Eaton, holding back tears. Thompson added, “I couldn’t save Timmy. But I may be able to save lots of kids along the way.”


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