Mental health a big focus for schools in Florida

Students in grades 6-12 to receive 5 hours of instruction

LAKE MARY, Fla. – As students returned to school Monday, districts across the state are still trying to figure out how to implement a state-issued mandate on mental health.

In July, the Florida Board of Education voted to require every public school to provide at least five hours of mental health instruction to students in grades 6-12.

Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran said the requirements further solidify the state's commitment to ensure that students are provided all the tools necessary to succeed.

"We are going to reinvent school-based mental health awareness in Florida, and we will be the No. 1 state in the nation in terms of mental-health outreach and school safety," Corcoran said.

The announcement came four months after a student took her own life at Lake Mary High School.

Superintendent Dr. Walt Griffin said the new mandate can be beneficial in preventing a future tragedy.

"It's really making sure students know what to do," Griffin said.  "Who to report to, what to do and how to handle it.  I think the most important message is they aren't alone and they aren't the only one having problems, and there's hope."

The requirements call for students to be taught awareness of mental illness symptoms, processes for seeking help, awareness of resources and what to say to peers who are struggling with mental health disorders.

Details haven't been released about how the instruction will be taught, but districts have until December 1 to submit their plans to the state.

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