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EDITORIAL: Teach about mental health in schools

Fort Worth Star-Telegram - 3/18/2017

March 18--There is far-reaching cultural misunderstanding when it comes to mental health. Pop culture often dictates that if you are suffering from a mental disorder, you're either weird, violent or unstable.

People absorb this from the world around them and weave it into how they perceive mental health sufferers. Yes, there are people suffering from extreme behavioral health issues, but a vast number of Americans suffer from these problems but live productive, healthy lives.

Children and teens don't usually hear about them. They only hear about the extremes that pop culture and misinformation provide, leaving kids confused, isolated and scared when they, or people they know, have mental health issues.

Education, awareness and early intervention are great ways to combat the stereotypes. Parents can help break down the stigmatization of mental health, but school will always be the best place to help educate kids properly about mental health and substance use disorders.

Rep. Four Price, R-Amarillo, the resident mental health champion in the Texas House, filed House Bill 11, which would better equip school districts to give children and teens the best mental health tools to succeed.

Early intervention is a priority in mental health.

Almost 50 percent of all chronic mental health disorders manifest by age 14. By age 24, the number jumps to 75 percent. Suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death for Americans between the ages of 10-24 says the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

House Bill 11 would address mental health education in both primary and secondary schools to create a more emotionally inclusive atmosphere for students.

The bill would also require school districts to provide mental health resource information in student handbooks, a class on mental health and substance use issues and educator tools for counseling students suffering from emotional turmoil.

HB 11 has been referred to the Public Health Committee, which Price chairs.

Funding would most likely comes from the House's proposed $162 million budget for behavioral health issues. House Speaker Joe Straus said money was to be used for implementation of the mental health committee's recommendations.

This is a smart step in mental health reform.


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