Florida schools to begin mental health education classes

The Florida State Board of Education voted Wednesday to require public schools in the state to begin providing mental health education classes starting in sixth grade.

Under the new mandate, students in sixth through 12th grades will be required to take five hours of mental health classes with the objective of helping young people identify mental illness and to help them learn how to find resources to treat depression or other mental health issues, according to news reports.

"We are going to reinvent school-based mental health awareness in Florida, and we will be the No. 1 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," state Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran said, according to WPLG-TV.

Corcoran credited Florida first lady Casey DeSantis and her statewide mental health campaign with helping craft and implement the new policy.

DeSantis, the mother of two young children, issued a statement on the new school requirement, calling it a "proactive" move, the Sun Sentinel reported.

“We know that 50% 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,” DeSantis said.

“Providing mental health instruction is another important step forward in supporting our families,” she said.

The new curriculum will include classes on suicide prevention, cyberbullying and substance abuse, Florida Department of Education spokeswoman Cheryl Etters told the Sentinel.

It’s unclear when the new mental health curriculum will be implemented.

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