The grief of two families touched by suicide is fueling a drive at the California Capitol to pass legislation requiring all mental health professionals in the state to be trained in suicide prevention.
Craig Lomax lost his daughter Linnea Lomax in 2012 when the UC Davis freshman had a mental break while studying for finals. The family intervened to get her into treatment, but Linnea walked away from the facility.
"My wife and I were working very hard to keep her alive," Craig Lomax said.
After an exhaustive search for Linnea, her body was found by the river a short distance from the clinic. She had hanged herself.
Craig Lomax said AB 2198 is not a cure all, but a foundational piece of legislation that can ensure a baseline of knowledge for all mental health workers.
"We're trying to refer our loved ones to a professional clinician and that clinician needs to be an expert every time, not just some of the time," Craig Lomax explained.
The assembly bill, sponsored by Marc Levine, D-San Rafael, would require all licensed psychologists, educational psychologists, marriage and family therapists, clinical social workers and clinical counselors to receive suicide prevention training in assessment, treatment and management.
Vic Ojakian is working with Craig Lomax to convince legislators to pass the bill. Ojakian is a former Palo Alto council member who lost his son Adam to suicide in 2004.
"Part of what motivates me is that I've had so many professionals say to me, 'I wish I had this training,'" he said. "By God, we're going to try to make sure that happens."
The bill has passed the Assembly, but may face more hurdles in the state Senate.
Mental health associations said the level of training is adequate and are concerned about the state dictating curriculum for mental health professionals.
Ojakian and Craig Lomax are hopeful the legislation will save some of the 4,000 lives lost each year to suicide in California.
"This type of grief is a very deep grief," Ojakian said. "We certainly don't want anyone else to go through it."
Sacramento County Behavioral Health Services; Suicide Prevention Hotline -
Phone: (916) 368-3111 or (800) 273-8255
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline -
Phone: (800) 273-8255
Reach Out (online support for youth) -
The Trevor Project (Crisis Intervention and Suicide Prevention for LGBTQ Youth) -
Phone: (866) 488-7386
Friends for Survival: Help After a Suicide Death -
Phone: (916) 392-0664
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention - Greater Sacramento