DOVERDel.– The House of Representatives on Tuesday passed legislation that would institute mental health education programs in elementary, middle and high schools across the state.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, one in five young people is affected by a mental health disorder, and untreated mental illness has been shown to lead to an increased risk of dropping out, homelessness, substance abuse, chronic illnesses, incarceration and possibly suicide. However, students with access to mental health services at school health centers are 10 times more likely to seek care for mental health or addiction problems than young people who do not have access.
Sponsored by House Majority Leader Valerie Longhurst, Bill 301 would require the Department of Education to establish a statewide mental health curriculum for K-12 in every school district and charter school, tailored to the developmental needs of students at every grade level.
“We know that unresolved trauma leads to lifelong mental health issues, substance use disorders, as well as higher rates of incarceration and negative health behaviors, including suicide. Untreated mental health issues impact a person’s physical health and create costly outcomes over their lifetime,” Longhurst Rep. D-Bear said.
A 2017 survey of Delaware high school students found that over the past year, more than a quarter felt sad or hopeless every day for two consecutive weeks, 16% seriously considered trying to commit suicide and 7.2% have attempted suicide.
HB 301 is part of a series of bills introduced last month aimed at collectively addressing the mental health issues of Delaware’s children and adults through preventative measures such as annual wellness checkups and more college mental health practitioners.
“While so many people experience their first mental health crisis as children or teenagers, our society has long been slow to recognize these early experiences and is often ill-prepared to provide young people with the tools and support they need. need, which only serves to reinforce many of the stigmas that keep young people and adults from seeking treatment,” said Senator Sarah McBride, Chair of the Senate Health Committee and Senior Senate Patron HB 301.
HB 301 goes to the Senate for consideration.