We need a mental health curriculum

Staff Editorial

There is one health class offered to Cal High students, one we typically take freshman year to learn about our physical health. As vital as nutrition and exercise are, this class is missing an even more overlooked area of health for high school students:  mental health.

Much too often we see  students struggling with depression, anxiety, and behavioral disorders. Mental health is a difficult journey every teenager goes through. It may be more severe or mild for some, but all in all, we deserve proper education on mental health in school in order to understand and help ourselves and others.

Fortunately for us, Senate Bill 224 passed in October 2021 ensures a proper mental health education curriculum included in current health class for high schools in California.

This newly formed curriculum includes introduction to the major principles of mental health. How to recognize, treat, and cope with mental health challenges will be taught thoroughly along with the typical health class course. 

Teachings of common psychological issues in teenagers, including anxiety, eating disorders and depression, will be accessible to students. 

The National Alliance on Mental Illness, or NAMI, found that 18.8 percent of teenagers experience mental illness. From 2016-2019, more than 10 million American high school students struggled with anxiety and other behavioral issues, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. An additional 2 million-plus teens  struggle with depression.

A bill so beneficial for students can easily be considered a feat for schools with students struggling in one way or another. As triumphant as this may seem, there is a catch. 

This mental health education will not be implemented until January 2024.

Mental health is a consistent issue that we students cannot wait on. Not only will mental health benefit our well-being, but as stated in SB 224, academic success begins with mental health. 

The bill states, “​​Mental health education is one of the best ways to increase awareness and the seeking of help, while reducing the stigma associated with mental health challenges.The public education system is the most efficient and effective setting for providing this education to all youth.”

If mental health is as critical as we must understand it to be, this mental health curriculum must be implemented into health classes as soon as possible. It is in the best interest for schools and students alike to see the urgency in the lack of mental health resources and education and push for all health classes to be updated now.