On July 1, New York and Virginia became the first two states to require mental health education in public schools. New York requires the class for elementary, middle, and high school students, while Virginia requires it for ninth and tenth graders. The classes focus on mental illnesses and suicide, since the second leading causes of death for teens is suicide. By teaching students about mental health, schools are showing students how to recognize signs of mental illnesses in themselves and others.
At Pinewood, school counselor Tina Maier instructs a course on mental health to ninth and tenth graders. For two weeks, she teaches each grade about depression and anxiety, among other topics. Maier wishes she had more time to discuss depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses thoroughly.
She believes mental health education should be required in all states. “[People don’t] take into consideration the expense [academics] have on [students’] mental stability,” Maier said.
High school is a crucial time for teens and students should “have a deeper understanding of [themselves] and [their] emotional well being,” Maier said.
By learning about mental health, students know how their bodies function and how to prepare for the future.
Adding on to the health program Maier teaches, there is a club called NAMI, or National Alliance on Mental Illness, at Pinewood. The club, run by writing and literature teacher Cheryl Zepp and Maier, meets at lunch on Mondays and focuses on spreading awareness about mental illnesses. There is also a Wellness Committee at Pinewood that brainstorms ideas to de-stress students.
In the past, Pinewood has changed from having seven classes a day to the block schedule to try and keep students less stressed about school work. However, as Maier said, there are still ways to spread more awareness about mental health, whether it be California requiring mental health education or Pinewood making the health program a full-year course.