Physical education is required in schools, but what about mental health? Last Fall, New York and Virginia became the first two states to implement a new law which mandates mental health education in schools. This Summer, Florida also made mental health classes mandatory in public schools. Mary Ellen Elia, New York’s State Education Commissioner, says “When young people learn about mental health and that it is an important aspect of overall health and well-being, the likelihood increases that they will be able to effectively recognize signs and symptoms in themselves and others and will know where to turn for help — and it will decrease the stigma that attaches to help-seeking.” It is critical that we teach young people about mental health. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is the second leading cause of death among people ages 15 to 24 and the 10th leading cause of death overall in the United States. Virginia Senator Creigh Deeds said, “You want young people to not only know the basics about mental health and what to look for in their friends, but also what to look for in themselves.” 

What can we do? The answer is clear – we need to be teaching mental health education in schools. Early intervention is essential to improve mental health and suicide prevention. New York and Virginia government officials understand the importance of educating kids early on and made changes in the school system. By providing mental health education, students can learn how to identify symptoms early and know where to go to get the help they need. Other benefits include more open conversations and reducing the stigma and negative attitudes toward mental illness, which often prevent those suffering from reaching out for help. Supporting students’ health could also have a positive impact on their academic achievement. According to one study, over 10 percent of high school dropouts were attributable to mental health disorders.

All states can be part of this movement to raise awareness and incorporate mental health education in schools. Hopefully these new laws in some states will pave the way into more schools and more states because mental health education needs to be a fundamental part of school curriculum.

Erika’s Lighthouse is dedicated to educating and raising awareness about adolescent depression, encouraging good mental health and breaking down the stigma surrounding mental health issues. We provide FREE depression education programs for both middle school and high school students. 

Why Depression Education?

  • Depression accounts for attendance issues, under achievement, behavioral concerns, etc.
  • Touches a larger population of students
  • Reduces stigma and builds a climate of good mental health
  • Promotes early identification of depression
  • Encourages early intervention and help seeking
  • It protects young lives

Our School Programs:

  • The Erika’s Lighthouse Program: Depression Awareness for Middle School Students
    • A teacher-led, video-based classroom program that introduces depression and strategies for good mental health.
  • The Erika’s Lighthouse Program: Depression and Suicide Awareness for High School Students
    • A teacher-led, video-based classroom program that takes a deeper look at depression and suicide and explores strategies for good mental health.

How our programs are different

  • Authentic
    • Real stories from real teens
  • Empowering
    • Teens can find their voice
  • Accessible
    • Flexible and ready to use
  • Hopeful
    • Not fear-based; comes from the heart

You can take action today by creating an account on our Resource Portal to access all of our programs and resources at no cost. We hope more states will follow this direction and implement mental health education in their schools. We would love to partner with you to help “Get Depression Out of the Dark.”