Following the example of Oregon and Utah, under a bill filed in the Florida Legislature for the 2020 session, public school students would be allowed to cite the need for a mental health day as an excuse to miss school.
Rep. Susan Valdes, D-Tampa, says she wants to elevate mental and behavior health issues to the same level as the flu, colds and dental appointments as a legitimate reason for students to call in sick. “It is time for us to take mental health as a whole more seriously,” says Valdes, as she explained that kids today are under a lot of pressure.
Today’s students are struggling with a variety of issues inside and outside the classroom – school shootings, climate change, personal economics, world affairs, ect.
If local and global issues are negatively affecting us as adults, how are our children dealing with these stressors that are constantly bombarding them on social media, on TV and via the web?
According to a recent study, teenagers named depression as a problem among their peers. Others blamed their anxiety on politics or climate change. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 7.1% of children aged 3-17 years (approximately 4.4 million) have been diagnosed with anxiety. And, 3.2% of children aged 3-17 years (approximately 1.9 million) have been diagnosed with depression. These numbers have increased over time. They state, “Ever having been diagnosed with either anxiety or depression among children aged 6–17 years increased from 5.4% in 2003 to 8% in 2007 and to 8.4% in 2011–2012.” Other studies indicate that the rate of major depressive episodes among 12- to 17-year-olds has increased 52% since 2005. Additionally, a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that the teen suicide rate in the United States has skyrocketed in recent years. Between 2007 and 2017, teen suicides spiked by nearly 56 percent — the rate climbing from 6.8 deaths per 100,000 people to 10.6.
And, 1 in 6 children aged 2-8 years-old has a mental, behavioral, or developmental disorder.
USA Today reports, Florida’s “mental-health sick day proposal is among a half-dozen bills filed focused on the mental and physical well-being of students filed for the upcoming session. One measure would require public schools to install filters to remove lead from drinking water. SB 432 would mandate high schools provide students training in cardiopulmonary resuscitation. And a third would allow school employees to create food pantry programs and provide food to students at no cost.”
Valdes’ goal is to remove what she sees as a stigma attached to mental illness that hampers efforts to combat depression and suicide.
Isn’t it time that we empower our children to prioritize their mental health?
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