Florida to Require Mental Health Classes in Public Schools

This is the third state in the US to mandate teaching about mental health in schools.


Florida to Require Mental Health Classes in Public Schools | This is the third state in the US to mandate teaching about mental health in schools.

Schools need to give students all the tools they need to navigate the world when they graduate. Besides teaching the basics – reading, writing, and arithmatic – teaching about mindfullness, health, and mental health are important life skills for young people to have. The state of Florida agrees.

Now, public schools in Florida will  be required to teach five or more hours about mental health for students in grades 6 - 12. This new directive was approved by the Florida Board of Education in July and is being hailed as a potential lifesaver.

Florida's first lady Casey DeSantis has made mental health a major priority for the state, and in May announced Hope for Healing Florida, a multi-agency mental health and substance abuse campaign. The first lady proposed the idea for mental health instruction to the state school board.

 “We are going to reinvent school-based mental-health awareness in Florida, and we will be the number one state in the nation in terms of mental health outreach and school safety, all because of the governor’s and First Lady’s remarkable vision,” Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran said in a statement that was released after the board’s unanimous vote to approve the new measure.

The new curriculum requires students to learn about the symptoms of mental illness and where to find help if they are feeling depressed or have other issues and even teaches the adolescents how to help their friends and classmates if they see them struggling. There hasn't been an implantation date announced yet, but sooner is much better than later.

School districts will be able to choose courses that include cyberbullying, suicide prevention, and substance abuse.

“Obviously, this is going to help students who are currently suffering from mental health issues, you know, thoughts of suicide, attempts of suicide. But the thing that is going to be the best thing is that it is going to reduce the stigma and it is going to educate the other healthy students who can identify folks within their peer group who are going through this,” Bob Gibson, a school board member told the Sun Sentinel.

Suicide is the second leading cause of death by young people ages 15 – 24 according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and it is climbing. That's why the curriculum targets younger teens.

"We know that 50 percent of all mental illness cases begin by age 14, so we are being proactive in our commitment to provide our kids with the necessary tools to see them through their successes and challenges. Providing mental health instruction is another important step forward in supporting our families,” the first lady said in the school board statement.

Florida is the third state, following New York and Virginia in 2018, to enact laws that require mental health education in schools. According to CNN, the New York law updated the health curriculum to include mental health for elementary, middle and high school students. The Virginia law mandated that mental health education be provided for 9th and 10th graders.

The New York State requirement states that mental health, health "is an integral part of our overall health and should be an integral part of health education in New York schools."

In the UK, a pilot program is running a study involving 370 schools to teach mindfulness to help students learn how to regulate their emotions. This is part of the UK's commitment to help young people cope with societal pressures.

These three states in the US are taking bold steps to help youth cope with the complexities of life as they mature from adolescents into adults. It is a confusing world they face and giving them the tools to navigate it safely is essential. Mental health is something that should be taught in schools in all the US and across the globe.

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