Legislators move forward with bill that would add mental health, wellness instruction to public school curriculum

Legislators move forward with bill that would add mental health, wellness instruction to public school curriculum

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - While South Carolina senators continued their work on S.419, legislators in the House passed various bills this week.

We first told you about one of those bills last year. The Health Education Act (H.3257) would add mental health and wellness instruction to the middle and high school curriculum in public schools.

The House voted unanimously to send the bill to the Senate this week.

According to officials, suicides are the second-leading cause of death for young people in South Carolina. According to a survey of South Carolina teens by the CDC, 33% of teens reported feeling sad or hopeless within the last year, almost 20% had contemplated suicide within that same time period, and 15% had come up with a plan.

The bill's sponsor Representative JA Moore (D-Berkeley) said his area has been rocked by recent tragedies involving suicide.

"I'm going to work to make sure students going to Berkeley and Charleston County schools and schools across the state feel they have the support and resources and guidance and everything else they need so they can better address suicidal thoughts, depression, and anxiety," Moore said.

The South Carolina chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) visits schools in South Carolina working to end the stigma around mental health and illness. They are hoping to accomplish this through their "Ending the Silence" program.

Executive director Bill Lindsey said from September to December last year, close to 80 students approached them to discuss mental health issues they were dealing with and they referred more than 30 of those students to get help.

He said any additional mental health instruction in public schools would be a good thing.

"Ten months ago, I lost a son to suicide,’ Lindsey said. “That has been an extremely difficult thing. I wish we could have done things differently. I think these programs are something that can help."

According to the Department of Mental Health's website, they have mental health professionals serving about 750 schools in South Carolina right now.

The Health Education Act has been referred to the Senate Education Committee.

If you or someone you know is dealing with suicidal thoughts, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Copyright 2020 WIS. All rights reserved.