Virginia Governor Ralph Northam signed into law a requirement that high school students in grades nine and ten in the Commonwealth receive instruction in mental health. What format this will take is still being determined. In Albemarle County, there will be a seminar to help students deal with the many issues they may confront during this time in their lives.
This mandate is the outgrowth of lobbying efforts by several Virginia teens who were concerned about what they had observed among their peers–increased pressures, anxiety and stress, depression, bullying, and substance abuse. The CDC confirms these students’ concerns and reports that about 20% of adolescents aged 13-18 suffer from a mental disorder. In addition, according to the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, “50% of the students who receive mental health services get them at school.”
This bill was sponsored in the Virginia State Senate by Senator R. Creigh Deeds, whose son had attacked him and, subsequently, committed suicide.
–Dianna E. Washington, Ph.D.,
Chair, Education and Children’s Issues Task Force