TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CAPITOL NEWS SERVICE) - The State Board of Education voted to make the mental health education mandatory in Florida schools Wednesday. The move comes almost a year and a half after the Parkland shooting sparked a push for greater access to mental health services for students.
A new plan aims to teach students how to identify and report mental health issues they or their peers may be experiencing. (PIXNIO)
Melanie Brown-Woofter with the Florida Council on Community Mental Health said it’s common for adolescents to struggle with mental health problems.
“Adolescence, with all the hormones, is a time when emotions are awry,” aid Brown-Woofter.
The new plan aims to teach students how to identify and report mental health issues they or their peers may be experiencing.
“And then also give them an idea of where resources are and how they can get help,” said Brown-Woofter.
Starting in sixth grade, Florida schools will be required to provide five hours of mental health education to students each year.
Florida’s First Lady is credited with proposing the idea. She and other state officials have spent the last three months holding listening sessions on mental health across the state.
Fedrick Ingram with the Florida Education Association, the state’s largest teacher’s union, said the new plan is a step in the right direction.
“Mental health services are important. Important for students, important to our schools, our teachers and important to stop some of the things and some of the atrocities that we've seen,” said Ingram.
While Ingram applauds the new focus on mental health, he pointed out there are still many open-ended questions surrounding how the new program will be implemented.
“What the courses are going to look like, who are going to be the actual teachers,” said Ingram.
Brown-Woofter said she hopes schools will make use of mental health resources and professionals already available.
“We have individuals who are trained who can easily go out and be able to be in the classroom with these kids and also can be the referral to help the children seek the services they need,” said Brown-Woofter.
The program is supposed to be in place for the upcoming school year, which is only about a month away.