Health

Florida Will Require Mental Health Classes For Public School Students

1 in 5 kids experience a mental health disorder by age 25.

Florida will now require public school students to take a minimum of five hours of mental health classes, starting in sixth grade.

The state’s Board of Education voted in July to mandate mental health classes to be taken every year until students graduate. Students will be taught everything from how to recognize signs of various mental health issues, what to say to peers who may be struggling and where to find resources that can help.

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The State of Florida looked at several facts when making the decision to require these courses, including the statistic that 1 in 5 youth in Florida (and worldwide) experience some sort of mental health disorder by the age of 25.

“Mental health literacy components that are key to well-being include understanding how to optimize and maintain good mental health; decreasing stigmas related to mental health; enhancing help-seeking efficacy; and understanding mental disorders and treatments,” the state’s ruling summarizes. “Mental and emotional health education can positively impact areas including, but not limited to, teen suicide, bullying and cyberbullying, and opioid and alcohol addictions.”

Gov. Ron DeSantis’ wife Casey tweeted her support for the measure:

Floridians have long had concerns with student mental health, but the conversation throughout the state’s legislature was heightened following the Feb. 14, 2018 shooting deaths of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Gunman Nikolas Cruz was a former student of the school whom some people believe was obsessed with weapons and killing people. His mental health has been a topic in the media and by the parents of students who died in the shooting. Those analyzing the incident wonder if mental health care could have prevented Cruz from acting on his hate.

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Richard Corcoran, the state’s commissioner of education, said that requiring the mental health classes from sixth grade on is “just the beginning.” He wants to spur Florida to be “the No. 1 state in the nation in terms of mental health outreach and school safety.”

“It’s no secret that mental illness robs students of the ability to reach their full potential,” Corcoran said.

New York and Virginia led the way in requiring such courses and, now Florida has done so as well, perhaps more states will follow their lead, providing education and support to students throughout the nation.