In 2010, nearly 40,000 Americans died by suicide, and an additional 713,000 visited emergency rooms seeking treatment for a self-inflicted injury. This makes suicide the eighth leading cause of death in the United States. Many people struggling with suicidal feelings turn to mental health professionals for assistance, but not all mental health professionals have training in suicide prevention. Thanks to the Matt Adler Suicide Assessment, Treatment, and Management Act of 2012, Washington will become the first state that mandates suicide prevention training for mental health workers.
The bill is named for Matt Adler, a husband, father, and attorney who took his own life after experiencing anxiety. Adler sought mental health treatment for his symptoms, but the treatment providers he saw were not prepared to detect and prevent suicide, according to his wife.
New Requirements for Mental Health Professionals
The law, which went into effect January 1, 2014, requires the following professionals, including those with retired active licenses, to undergo six hours of suicide prevention training:
- Marriage and family therapists
- Chemical dependency professionals
- Occupational therapists and occupational therapy assistants
- Mental health counselors
- Advanced social workers
- Independent clinical social workers
State and local government employees, as well as community mental health agency employees, are exempt from the training requirements.
GoodTherapy.org’s Continuing Education Programs
GoodTherapy.org routinely sponsors continuing education programs that can help mental health professionals meet the training requirement. These continuing education programs are available at no additional cost to GoodTherapy.org members. Andrew Mendonsa’s Adult Suicide Risk Assessment, for example, identified risk factors for suicide and helped clinicians determine appropriate steps for people who feel suicidal.
In 2014 and beyond, GoodTherapy.org will continue to provide quality continuing education programs on suicide prevention. Craig Bryan’s Brief Interventions for Suicidal Military Personnel and Veterans specifically targets mental health issues within the military, offering intervention and treatment strategies. Lisa Firestone’s Suicide: What Therapists Need to Know addresses common challenges of treating people with suicidal thoughts and offers a list of proven suicide treatments.
Mental health professionals interested in GoodTherapy.org’s web conferences and continuing education programs should check back frequently. GoodTherapy.org is committed to ending the fight against suicide, and will continue to offer quality programs that can help therapists fulfill Washington’s new requirement.
- Frequently asked questions about the Matt Adler Suicide Assessment, Treatment and Management Act of 2012 (ESHB 2366) [PDF]. (2012). Olympia: Washington House Democrats.
- History. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.intheforefront.org/about/mattadler
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