Mental health mandate
A recent mandate by the Florida Department of Education requires at least five hours of mental health instruction each year for students. This made Florida the third state in the U.S. to formally require consistent mental health education in all public schools.
This legislation came after the previous standard was criticized for not including suicide prevention, especially after a report by Duval County reflected that one in five students between 13-18 suffered from a serious, diagnosed mental illness.
The new mandate includes teaching students how to recognize signs and symptoms of mental illness in themselves and classmates, how students can cope with mental health issues and the resources they have available to them on campus. Each school district has access to state funding to accomplish this.
School districts have been given until Dec. 1 to submit their plans for a standardized mental health curriculum. This plan must include how the district intends to reach all age groups and levels of students with their curriculum.
Despite receiving some criticisms from parents that mental health education might not be appropriate for younger students, the mandate isn’t budging.
The program Start with Hello was introduced to many Florida schools in recent years to reduce the number of mass shootings by attacking the potential root cause of bullying. Other such programs are expected to be widely implemented in the coming months.
The introduction of mental health curriculum was in part motivated by the recent school shootings. Officials hope that the introduction od mental health awareness and support at an early age will help reduce mass shootings in schools, which admittedly comes a little bit late. Nonetheless, Florida schools are now required to submit plans to not only provide support for students with mental illnesses, but also create a more positive school environment.