Dec 15, 2021

The vast majority of parents support providing mental health education in schools, according to a national survey released Dec. 14.

The survey, conducted during November 2021 for NAMI, found that 89% of parents believe their child's mental health is more important than academic achievement, and 87% of parents support providing mental health education in schools.

MAMH and the Children’s Mental Health Campaign have long advocated for mental health education in schools, and this critical policy priority has taken on a new urgency over the last two years. Isolation, changes in routine, financial and food insecurity, and parental stress all impact child mental health, and all these risk factors were exacerbated by COVID and the public health response. In a survey conducted by the MA Department of Public Health in 2020, almost half of all youth in Massachusetts (48%) reported feeling sad or hopeless almost every day for two or more weeks in a row. Youth from American Indian, Hispanic Latinx, and multiracial communities reported even higher rates.

Bills currently under consideration by the legislature would require mental health education to be taught as part of a broader health and wellness curriculum already required in MA schools. The goals of these bills are to provide students with information to understand their own mental health, skills to build and strengthen their own resilience, and resources to provide additional support when they need it.

“Isolation, changes in routine, financial and food insecurity, and parental stress all impact child mental health, and all these risk factors were exacerbated by COVID and the public health response.”

Research shows that this kind of education can help students learn to regulate their responses to stressful situations. As just one example, children who have had two or more adverse childhood experiences but learned to stay calm and in control when faced with challenges are more than 3 times more likely to be engaged in school compared to peers who have not learned these skills.

Teaching mental health and wellness as part of an overall health and wellness curriculum reflects the Massachusetts Department of Education’s curriculum framework, which has included a mental health standard for pre-K through 12th grade since 1999.

You can learn more about legislative proposals to promote mental health education in the Commonwealth with this Fact Sheet developed by the Children's Mental Health Campaign or by reading the full text of H.616 (sponsored by Reps. Natalie Higgins and Tami Gouveia) and S.292 (sponsored by Sens. Nick Collins, Suzanne Whipps, and Jo Comerford). More background about the effectiveness of mental health education is included in MAMH's testimony in strong support of the bill.

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