✅ Teaching mental health

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By Jocelyn Wiener

WHAT THE BILL WOULD DO

SB 224 would mandate mental health instruction in middle schools and high schools that have an existing health education course. Supporters hope that such instruction would eventually be required in all schools statewide. Content would cover a range of topics, including habits that promote mental wellness, signs and symptoms of common mental health conditions and ways to seek help.The bill is carried by Democratic Sens. Anthony Portantino of La Cañada Flintridge and Susan Rubio of Baldwin Park.

WHO SUPPORTS IT

A coalition of nearly 50 organizations that advocate for mental health, children’s rights, disability rights and civil rights, along with the California Hospital Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics, support the bill. They say it’s crucial to reduce stigma and normalize conversations about mental health in schools, since that’s where children and adolescents spend the majority of their time. 

WHO’S OPPOSED

No current opposition. To address concerns raised by teachers unions, the bill’s scope was reduced to include only schools with current health education programs, as opposed to all schools in the state.

WHY IT MATTERS

Over the past decade, rates of hospitalization for mental health emergencies have been skyrocketing among children and adolescents. Between 2012 and 2019, California emergency rooms reported a 42% increase in the number of children they were treating for mental illness. The pandemic has further exacerbated the trend.

GOVERNOR’S CALL:

Newsom signed the bill on Oct. 8. In a statement on this and a series of bills to increase support for K-12 students, he said: “We’re implementing the historic, transformative measures needed to help support our students’ health and wellbeing.”