COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), suicide is the second-leading cause of death for young people ages 15 to 24.
That’s why state lawmakers are making a push for mental health education and wellness in the classroom.
A bill filed by Rep. JA Moore (D-Berkeley) will require middle schools to offer a mental health and wellness course elective to 7th graders. Those in 9th grade would be required to take a unit of mental health and wellness as well.
“It's critical. I think it impacts every South Carolinian. This isn’t an isolated incident that effects one group of people,” Rep. Moore said.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness South Carolina (NAMI) has been presenting their “End The Silence” program to upper elementary school, middle school, and high school students.
Executive Director Bill Lindsey said the non-profit’s efforts have received some positive reception from students. “It’s just been the fastest growing program in our organization. Because the students are so attuned to what’s been happing in their schools and across the country.”
He believes any mental health education will be a positive thing for everyone.
NAMI says 117 people end their lives each day by suicide. “If an airliner was going down with 117 people a day, the FAA would shut down the airline industry. Yet, we got that many people dying every day and we don’t talk about it,” Lindsey said.
Teen suicide rates are above the national average, according to data from CDC.
Rep. Moore said, “We need to take the stigma off of mental illness. We need to make sure everyone understands what healthy mental health and wellness looks like.”
Rep. Moore has filed another bill called the South Carolina School Safe Space Act. That bill would require that for every 200 students, schools need to have one staff member trained in mental health counseling. All teachers will be required to have minimal, but vital training as well.
Governor Henry McMaster’s proposed executive budgets set aside $2.2 million so every school in South Carolina has access to a mental health counselor.
If you or someone you know is dealing with suicidal thoughts or you are urged to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.