Florida lawmaker wants students to be excused for mental health days

Florida Representative, Susan Valdes
Photo courtesy Florida Politics

Florida Representative, Susan Valdes, recently introduced a bill that would allow public school students to be excused for mental health days.

House Bill 315 is the latest among many attempts across the United States, to implement a strategy that acknowledges student mental health needs within the public-school systems.

“In the age of social media, the Internet, and constant bombardment of negative news and events our children are bearing the brunt of a quickly-changing society,” said Valdes in a recent statement.

Valdes believes that mental health days in public schools should be treated as equally as students calling in sick from the common cold.

Amberrae House, a clinical mental health counseling graduate student at FAMU agrees, stating that mental health is an important topic that should be addressed within the FL public school systems.

“School, on top of personal life, can create strenuous situations for student’s mental health. Self-care is by far the best care we as people can give ourselves,” said House. “Allowing students to have the option to take a mental health day and it be excused is demonstrating genuine care and advocacy for the mental well-being of students.”

According to recent data published by the Florida Council for Mental Health, the state of Florida has the highest rate of death by suicide compared to the national average, making it the leading cause of death among all Floridians.

Lucerno Saldierna, a Junior Psychology student resonated with the meaning of the bill. 

“In this present time, more people are dying young and one of the major factors is suicide,” said Saldierna. “People are not taught to seek help or how to maintain positive mental health. It is vital to teach people, especially students, the ways and resources to improve their mental health.”

Some students feel as though this is bill is long overdue, and that mental health is topic that should be incorporated into the public school’s curriculum. 

“I was not taught about mental health and the ways it can negatively affect my day to day experiences. Awareness is impactful and by teaching children about it, creates an inclusive environment where labels and stereotypes depreciate,” said House.

If passed, the bill would allow students to be excused for one day per semester.

“Mental health is a part of everyone’s overall health. It can affect student’s behavior and their performance at school,” said Saldierna. “Just as the public-school systems acknowledges physical health, sex education, and the social developments of students, mental health should be a topic as well”.