Florida students now required to get mental health training at school

Action News Jax at 6:00 p.m.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Florida schools will now be required to provide at least five hours of education on mental and emotional health every year to middle and high school students.

The Florida Board of Education unanimously approved the new rule Wednesday morning.

Duval County Public Schools referred students for mental health services 7,000 times last school year, according to superintendent Dr. Diana Greene.

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“That tells you that our students are crying out for help. And we are recognizing that they are asking for help,” said Greene.

The new rule approved by the state board will require training on mental health awareness and assistance, including suicide prevention and the impacts of substance abuse.

Mental health is a top priority for Florida First Lady Casey DeSantis, who was at First Coast High

School Monday for a mental and emotional health listening session.

Action News Jax asked Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran if five hours of training will make a difference for students.

“We’ll see. Again, we measure everything. So, we can see the outcomes. You know what’s not being done right now? Five hours,” said Corcoran.

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Jacksonville mother Tiffany Clark said parents need to get on board.

“Five hours in a classroom, frankly, will never be enough, because the hours have to accumulate, and they have to begin first in the household,” said Clark.

Greene said the biggest obstacle for students referred for mental health services is getting parents to sign off on it.

“For students to receive mental health services beyond an initial evaluation, beyond initial consultation, it still will require a parental signature if that student is under the age of 18,” said Greene. “The goal now is, how do we keep moving that forward so that parents don’t look at this as some form of a stigma?”

The Florida Youth Risk Behavior Survey provides a snapshot of Florida high school students’ mental health.

The 2017 data shows 28 percent of students surveyed reported feeling sad or hopeless for two or more weeks in a row.

The survey showed 14 percent reported seriously considering suicide and 14 percent reported purposely hurting themselves.