Florida schools required to teach mental health courses after state ed board vote

Florida's public schools will be required to give students at least five hours of instruction on mental health issues beginning in 6th grade after the state's board of education approved changes to the curriculum Wednesday.

The News Service of Florida reports that students will have to take classes "aimed at helping them to identify the signs and symptoms of mental illness, find resources if they are battling with depression or other issues, and teach them how to help peers who are struggling with a mental health disorder."

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The new curriculum does not have an implementation date.

Children's mental health has been a signature issue for Florida first lady Casey DeSantis — wife Gov. Ron DeSantis.

“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,” Casey DeSantis said in a statement. "Providing mental health instruction is another important step forward in supporting our families."

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Department of Education spokeswoman Cheryl Etters said that each school district can choose what mental health-related courses to offer students. Potential classes explore issues related to cyberbullying, the effects of substance abuse, or suicide prevention. The state board has not decided how schools will implement the required courses into their regular schedules.

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"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," state Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran said in a statement. " ... It is going to be a life-saver and it will reduce the stigma."

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Fox News’ Kira Grant contributed to this report.