AMARILLO, Texas (KFDA) - Handling mental health issues in public schools get a higher profile starting this week.
The Law is all about mental health education for teachers, administrators, staff and students.
“To really reduce the stigma of mental illness across the state of Texas and really to also provide additional resources for educators in our public school system. And to help those children who are in crisis,” says Representative Four Price.
During the entire school year, Panhandle schools were preparing for the bill to go into effect by training more educators and staff on mental health first aid as well as teaching students about their mental health. Monday is the first day of school, where this law is in effect throughout Texas.
“Nowadays, we do see an increase in mental health issues and different things going on, and students have to deal with a lot of things that they never had to deal with before. So I think making others aware and taking away that stigma and just knowing it is okay to ask someone sometimes, especially if they are like middle school high school, are you thinking about committing suicide. Instead of trying to beat around the bush with it and just informing others and other students about what I do think is vital for the future of our society and the future of our kiddos,” said Maresha Lasiter school specialist in school psychology intern at River Road ISD.
Since many schools in the Panhandle began these teachings earlier this year and last year, they have already seen how this impacts students.
“So we have actually seen a lot of those positive behaviors, better interactions between students because they get more informed, and they are more understanding of their classmates. Like okay, so Johnny’s not just doing this because he actually has some mental health issues and that stigma is being reduced, and it is actually no longer seen as such a negative thing. Because your mental health does effects your physical health and every aspect of your life,” said Lasiter.
This bill has prompted other measures such as House Bill 19 to go into effect as well, which requires all regions to have a school psychologist available for students.
“Curriculum will change in the future. So if an enrichment program to teach health is offered for graduation, not only will those students be learning about cardiovascular disease or proper nutrition, they are also going to learn about anxiety and suicide prevention and mental illness you know depression. The things that folks have been hesitant to talk about in the past, and I think this is all a step in the right direction to minimize and reduce the stigma that is already associated with mental illness,” said Price.
Educators and Lawmakers are hoping this is only the beginning of addressing mental health needs in our schools and preventing tragedy from happening.