Florida will soon require public schools to implement mental-health education, making it the third state to do so after New York and Virginia passed similar laws last year.
The state’s Board of Education voted on Wednesday to provide all students in grades 6 through 12 with at least five hours of mental-health instruction annually, Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran said in a press release.
“This is just the beginning. It’s no secret that mental illness robs students of the ability to reach their full potential, and we are joining forces to combat this disease and give our students the tools they need to thrive,” he said.
He also credited Florida’s First Lady Casey DeSantis with taking initiative in helping to get the measure passed, after she launched Hope for Healing Florida in May, a multi-agency mental-health and substance-abuse campaign.
“As I travel the state, I am hearing from many families and know that 50% 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,” DeSantis, 39, added in a statement on Twitter.
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As I travel the state, I am hearing from many families and know that 50% 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.— Casey DeSantis (@FLCaseyDeSantis) July 17, 2019
The required education must include instruction on how to recognize signs and symptoms, how kids can get or seek help for themselves or others, an awareness of resources such as the National Suicide Prevention hotline and advice on how to help peers struggling with mental health disorders.
It remains unclear whether outside educators will be brought in to teach the students, or if teachers will instead be trained on the lessons.
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An estimated 49.5% of adolescents ages 13 to 18 have a mental disorder, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.
The institute reports that 31.9% suffer from an anxiety disorder, while 2.3 million adolescents aged 12 to 17 had at least one major depressive episode in 2017.