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Mental Health Classes Mandated in Florida Public Schools

According to NAMI, 13% of children ages 8-15 experience a mental health condition. (Pixabay)
According to NAMI, 13% of children ages 8-15 experience a mental health condition. (Pixabay)
July 18, 2019

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Public schools in Florida will now be required to teach students at least five hours of mental health instruction beginning in sixth grade, under a mandate approved by Florida's Board of Education on Wednesday.

Under the plan, students in grades 6 through 12 will take courses that help them identify the signs and symptoms of mental health disorders, find how to get help, and it will teach them how to also help peers who are struggling.

Cindy Foster, president of the Florida chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), applauds the new mandate, which she says compliments her group’s program called Ending the Silence, which brings mental health presentations from both teens and adults impacted by mental health issues into middle and high schools.

"With mental health awareness often overlooked in the school curriculum, this is great,” she states. “It provides that opportunity to recognize the symptoms early on, and we know that getting the help early on is the best path to recovery."

While it's unclear if the classes will begin in the upcoming school year, Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran said in a statement that Florida will be the number one state in the nation in terms of mental health outreach and school safety.

First Lady Casey DeSantis has made mental health one of her top priorities, prompting education officials to propose the change to statewide curriculum back in June.

School districts will be able to choose the types of classes children will be required to take, under the new rule which includes courses about cyberbullying, suicide prevention and the impact of substance abuse.

Foster says she believes the new rule will be just as beneficial as NAMI's program.

"And really have gotten a lot of good feedback from students that listened to it,” she states. “And what it does, it teaches youths the early warning signs of mental health conditions and provides tools and resources to help youth, friends and the family members who might be experiencing some symptoms."

Corcoran says the change is only the beginning of things to come in terms of changes related to mental health awareness in the state's public education system.

Trimmel Gomes, Public News Service - FL