Alaska Bill to Amend Health Education to Include Mental Health Heard in Senate Health – State Reform

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The Alaska Senate Health and Human Services Committee held a hearing to SB 80 Tuesday. This bill would amend the existing health education curriculum to include a mental health curriculum in all health classes from Kindergarten to Grade 12.

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The sponsor of the bill, Senator Elvi Gray-Jackson, said the bill is an important step in overcoming the mental health crisis in Alaska.

“The state has a responsibility to treat the current mental health crisis in Alaska as a serious public health issue. By creating standards for mental health education and encouraging schools to teach a mental health program, SB80 aims to reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness and increase students’ knowledge of mental health, by encouraging conversation. and understanding the problem.

If this bill passes, the Alaska State Board of Education and Early Development and the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development (DEED) will develop guidelines for mental health education in consultation with the Department of Health and from Alaska Social Services (DHSS); and representatives from national, state and tribal mental health organizations.

These teaching guidelines will also be developed in consultation with counselors, educators, students, administrators and other mental health organizations to form effective guidelines for school boards, teachers and students.

Dr Shirley Holloway, vice president of NAMI Alaska, said this bill is vital in helping to solve problems caused by mental illness.

“Education, early detection and intervention, as well as work on prevention are essential to minimize common mental health problems in our youth and adolescents and, hopefully, eradicate long-term disabilities caused by mental illness. It is vital that the Alaskan education system create a comprehensive mental health program. Good mental health is crucial for general well-being, which is why it is necessary that mental health is integrated into existing health education programs, programs and courses.

According to the Alaska 2019 Youth Risk Behavior Health Survey, 60.1% of students reported feeling sad or hopeless almost every day for at least two weeks in the past year, and 24.3% attempted to fall. commit suicide one or more times in the past 12 months.

Holloway said:

“This past year, with the isolation and all the issues associated with the pandemic, we are seeing a lot more children seen in the emergency room with mental health issues. From April 2020, the proportion of children’s mental health emergency room visits among all pediatric emergency room visits increased and remained high until October. Compared with 2019, the proportion of mental health-related visits for children aged 5 to 11 and 12 to 17 increased from around 24% to 32% respectively.

Strengthening the Alaska Public School’s existing health program to include mental health education and awareness will teach students to recognize the warning signs of mental distress and provide them with the language and resources to connect to help. This legislation expands existing health education requirements to include the mental health curriculum in all health classes from Kindergarten to Grade 12 ”

This bill will have its second hearing in the Senate Committee on Health and Social Services on April 15.

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