Sean Rayford file

South Carolina schools are one step closer to required education on mental health thanks to new legislation passed in the state House of Representatives last week. The bill (H.3257) creates an amendment to the Health Education Act obligating the State Board of Education to develop age-appropriate standards for students that address mental, social, and emotional health.

The board will also provide instructional material to school districts, which will adopt or develop curriculum locally. These requirements would go into effect in the 2020-2021 school year if the legislation is passed.

The bill’s author, S.C. Rep. JA Moore (D-Berkeley), says that mental health advocates were involved in its creation. “It was a collaborative effort with students and teachers and mental health professionals and the Department of Education and the Department of Mental Health,” he says.

Statistics and reports from the last decade have shown mental health and access to mental health care to be problems for citizens of S.C. A 2019 study from non-profit Mental Health America ranked the Palmetto State 44th in the nation for mental health concerns and lack of proper care, dropping 11 rankings in five years.
[content-1] The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration found in a 2019 study that S.C. was near or slightly under the national average for most mental health indicators, including rates of youths and adults who have experienced suicidal thoughts or serious mental illness.

In a sweeping show of support, no state reps voted against the measure when it successfully went through the House. The bill was sent to the state Senate for its first reading on Jan. 23, where it was referred to the Committee on Education.

“This piece of legislation is the first step to change a culture here in South Carolina, how we talk about, how we address, how we relate to mental health wellness and awareness in our community,” says Moore. “It passed the House, but it still has to go through the Senate and then the Governor still has to sign it. We still have a long way to go.”

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