The Florida State Board of Education voted this week to require public schools to provide students with mental health education.
Under the new directive, the department said in an announcement that schools will be required to “provide students in grades 6-12 at least five hours of mental health instruction” on an annual basis.
The instruction will be related to youth mental health awareness and assistance. It will also focus on providing students with an “awareness of signs and symptoms, process for getting or seeking help for themselves or others,” as well as an awareness of accessible mental health resources, including the National Suicide Prevention Hotline, the department said.
“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,” Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran said in a statement.
“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. As usual, we will be a model of innovation and reform for other states to mimic,” he continued. “First Lady DeSantis has taken the lead to get the ball rolling with her recent Hope for Healing launch, and we are building on the momentum of her great leadership.”
Florida’s first lady, Casey DeSantis, said that she and her husband, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), have “traveled the state and have heard from many families who voice concern about the struggles that adversely affect so many of our children.”
“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,” she added in a statement.
It remains unclear when the mental health education will be incorporated into the public school curriculum in the state.