Florida Schools to Require at Least 5 Hours of Mental Health Classes

Florida Schools to Require at Least 5 Hours of Mental Health Classes

The Florida Department of Education has approved a landmark measure that will require mental health education for all students in grades 6-12. It’s not clear yet when the plan will go into effect, but we do know it calls for at least 5 hours of mental health education per week in subjects ranging from cyber-bullying to suicide prevention, to helping remove the stigma of being diagnosed with a mental health disorder. The plan was born out of discussions with First Lady Casey DeSantis who has pushed for major education reforms throughout Florida along with her husband Governor Rick DeSantis.

“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.”

-First Lady Casey DeSantis

This is the latest step in a series of moves designed to give students the help they desperately need, and largely haven’t been receiving. The Association for Children’s Mental Health says 1-in-5 children have a diagnosable mental or emotional disorder but well over 50% of children ages 6-17 aren’t receiving the support or help they need in school. 

Florida’s new initiative is the latest in a series of pushes nationwide to deal with the issue of mental health in students. Earlier this year two students who survived the Parkland school shooting committed suicide which prompted lawmakers to call for increased mental health funding for students. Similar proposals have popped up around the country as the number of school shootings continue to rise.

In January as teachers in Los Angeles went on strike, one of their demands was that schools hire one psychiatric social worker or mental health counselor for every 500 students. L.A. teachers say they’ve seen a dramatic rise in students suffering from a wide variety of issues, and an alarming lack of outlets for them to discuss it and deal with it. Other teacher strikes across the country have also mentioned increased mental health funding as one of the changes they would like to see.

In Florida, the most recent Youth Risk Behavior Survey highlighted just how big a problem mental health is amongst Florida high school students. Over a quarter of them reported feeling sad or hopeless for longer than two weeks, and 14% seriously considered suicide. A similar study done with Middle School students shows 17% seriously thought about killing themselves and 7% had actually attempted it. Those numbers are in line with national statistics gathered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. After falling steeply throughout the 90s, the number of High School students considering suicide has been on the rise since 2009.


Via: ChildTrends.org

Florida’s new initiative won’t only be dealing with suicide prevention. The measure will seek to help end the stigma surrounding a mental health disorder diagnosis, and education on where students can go to seek help if they need it. It will also educate students on how to recognize warning signs in their friends or family members and what they can do if they notice them. It’s unclear yet just how Florida’s new initiative will be implemented and if classroom teachers will be responsible for teaching the material or if it will require hiring more counselors or professionals. The good news is that the Florida Legislature has approved $75-million to support the program. 

Florida Schools to Require at Least 5 Hours of Mental Health Classes

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David Rode

Dave is a middle school math teacher. He's also a musician, a community theater, dad to two amazing children, and he doesn't get a lot of sleep.

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