Senate Bill Aims to Add Mental Health Topics to Iowa School Curriculum

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DES MOINES, Iowa – An amended bill in the Iowa Senate looks to change the language of subjects taught in state health classes.

If passed, Senate File 376 would have health classes add mental health, suicide prevention, and coping skills to seventh through 12th grade curriculum.

Des Moines Public Schools Family and Consumer Science Teacher Joanna Winston said right now the subjects are taught in elective classes, but not every student takes them.

“The more we talk about it the less stigma there is surrounding mental health. We are talking about mental health more, especially with adults, but I think we need to start at a younger age to identify these are signs, these are symptoms and some ways we can treat mental health,” Winston said.

According to an Iowa Youth Survey by the Iowa Department of Public Health students having a plan to commit suicide increased by 53 percent from 2012 to 2018.

Roosevelt High School Junior Docial Vleyee said adding subjects about mental health, suicide prevention and coping skills is a good idea because symptoms can begin at a young age.

“I don’t think it is as spoken as it needs to be, because they just think of us as students. Like, we are not in the outside world, we don’t need to know but we really do need to learn because it does affect us and everyone else around us,” Vleyee said.

According to IDPH one in 20 youths reported a suicide attempt within the last year.

Roosevelt High School Sophomore Lexi Dean said she learned about mental health and symptoms from an elective class called “Personal Health and Development.”

“A lot of things that are going on now in the world and personal things, it’s just nice to know,” Dean said.

Dean said one example that was brought up in class includes the impact of social media and mental health.

“There are a lot of things on social media that one we can’t control and two that we see on a daily basis. With social media you can’t pick what you see, so anything can pop up,” Dean said.

Winston said students are curious and want to learn more about the feelings they may be having.

“I think the younger a student is the more we can normalize it and the less stigma will be surrounding mental health. I think the language is really important that we use,” Winston said.

If the bill is passed, teachers will create age appropriate curriculum on the topics for school districts and accredited nonpublic schools.


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