After a state Board of Education vote in July, Florida became the third state in the nation to require mental health education in public schools. In the state, students will learn about mental health as part of their curriculum, although it’s not yet clear when this new requirement will begin.

The Board of Education proposed the change in Florida’s state curriculum requiring schools to teach a minimum of five hours of mental health instruction in grades 6-12. Requirements for the courses on mental health in schools will include instruction about the signs and symptoms of mental illnesses, ways to seek treatment and how to help someone dealing with a mental health issue. Under the new rule, schools can cover topics like cyberbullying, suicide prevention and the impact of substance abuse as part of their required mental health education.

Florida First Lady Casey DeSantis pushed for the implementation of the program and has made mental health one of her top priorities after the Parkland shooting in February 2018. Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran also said in a prepared statement that the measure is part of an initiative to reinvent school-based mental health awareness in Florida. Florida, according to Corcoran, hopes to become the top state in the country in terms of school safety and mental health outreach.

Individual school districts will choose the way students are taught this information. While some may elect to incorporate the information into preexisting curriculum and classes, others may use outside organizations or educators to help deliver this crucial instruction. Programs like Real Talk, an education initiative presented by Advanced Recovery Systems and the Miss Florida Scholarship Pageant, can be utilized to deliver information about issues like mental health and addiction through small group assemblies.

Mental Health Issues in Florida’s Youth

According to the United States Department of Health and Human Services, the following are key teen mental health statistics in Florida:

  • 28% of Florida high school students say they felt sad or hopeless nearly every day for two or more weeks in a row. Of this 28%, 18% were male, and 38% were female.
  • 13% of Florida adolescents aged 12 to 17 said they had at least one major depressive episode in the 12 months before the survey.
  • 14% of Florida high school students said they’d seriously considered attempting suicide during the 12 months before the survey.

Partnership with First Lady DeSantis

Along with working on the initiative to provide mental health classes in school, First Lady DeSantis has taken on other projects in Florida relating to mental health. She recently announced she would be working with state agencies to see how well state mental health programs are working.

She also hosted a mental health conversation at the Governor’s Mansion with her husband, Republican Governor Ron DeSantis, key heads of state agencies and both Democratic and Republican lawmakers. She says her goal is to help the people of Florida know how to access quality mental health care when they need it.

Additionally, First Lady DeSantis launched a website called “Hope For Healing Florida.” The site provides information and resources regarding suicide prevention, anxiety, depression and bullying. She said the site aims to allow people access help and information when they need it most.

Expanded Funding for Mental Health Services

According to Governor DeSantis, who is opposed to expanding Medicaid in the state of Florida, funding for mental health services has increased in the state. The governor expressed the belief that funding for mental health services isn’t necessarily the problem, but that it needs to be delivered more effectively.

The Florida Senate has suggested setting aside $100 million for schools to be able to provide mental health services, which is $20 million more than the suggestion from the Florida House.

If you or someone you care about is struggling with a mental health issue and addiction, contact The Recovery Village. We have Florida recovery centers with co-occurring treatment programs.