BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) — Thousands of Louisianans struggle with mental health every day. Some lawmakers are making a push to make sure kids are getting educated on mental health and suicide prevention.

Act 650 by Rep. Royce Duplessis requires mental health to be taught in K-12 classrooms. 

“Kids are experiencing trauma, kids are experiencing depression and we want to give kids outlets and resources whether it be through therapy or just being able to express themselves creatively.”

The Louisiana Department of Education is working on educational materials for each grade level and will take the new policy to BESE in October for approval. It’s expected the lessons will begin in the next school year. The bill outlines that mental health instruction can be added to already existing lessons. The mental health component is expected to be added to health classes at the high school level. For K-8 it is still being worked out where it will be integrated.

Each lesson will be age appropriate and the goal is to start teaching kids young about how mental health can impact them and their families.

“From every district across the state we are all seeing instances of young people either being bullied and not knowing how to respond, being distant from their classmates through COVID and not knowing how to cope,” Rep. Duplessis said.

According to the National Association of Mental Illness, one in five adults struggles with mental health. Half of all lifetime cases of mental illness begin around age 14.

“Suicide is the third leading cause of death for people ages 10-24 and also suicide was the 4th leading cause of death in Louisiana in 2020,” said Dr. Robyn Thomas, suicide prevention lead at the Office of Behavioral Health.

By improving education on how to identify and address mental health, the hope is to keep kids from dropping out of school, and not ending up in juvenile detention. The Department of Health is also ramping up a number of programs to get people in touch with mental health resources.

Connect with the Office of Behavioral Health here to find resources that could help you or your child.

Suicide Prevention Hotline # 988