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Florida’s First Lady Wants To Change the Way Schools Tackle Mental Health

In a roundtable held on Wednesday, Casey DeSantis unveiled an initiative which provides teachers, parents and students with new tools to approach mental health in grades K-12.

TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA — “We’re changing the way we talk and think about mental health in the state of Florida… We’re going to be referring to it as resiliency,” Casey DeSantis began in a roundtable discussion on Wednesday.

The first lady was joined by Education Commissioner Manny Diaz, Jr., Monica Colucci of the Miami-Dade school board, State Board of Education member Ryan Petty, NFL legend Jack Brewer and Florida State athlete Jaime Ferrer as she announced a new program designed to arm Florida students with the tools they need to overcome obstacles and succeed.

The initiative is designed to take the burden off of mental health professionals by implementing resiliency training in schools so that parent volunteers and teachers have the tools they need to coach and mentor students. In order to do this, the Florida Department of Education is investing $21 million that will provide educators with a curriculum that teaches students the importance of grit, mentorship, citizenship and volunteerism.

“This helps meet the demand for kids who need an outlet and a mentor or someone to talk to. A lot of kids might not feel comfortable talking to a mental health counselor, so we’re changing the way we’re approaching this in schools,” Casey DeSantis explained.

Diaz emphasized the importance of bringing moms and dads back into the classroom: “We know teachers need to focus on teaching and that they can’t be a psychologist at the same time. But I think that if we provide the training that gives them the toolkit to act as a mentor outside of the classroom, it’s a force multiplier.”

Former NFL player Jack Brewer, founder of the Jack Brewer Foundation, explained that he’s passionate about this initiative because it gets to the root cause of mental health issues amongst children. “We have 2.5 million babies that are fatherless right now. When you talk about resiliency, we’re talking about bringing a child hope and teaching them how to fight back because we’re all going to get knocked down at one point or another,” he said.

The first lady went on to explain that this initiative is not about injecting politics into education. That is why she has called for a review of ideological instruction in schools. “When we put kids into a victim mentality, it puts them at odds with what we’re teaching – grit, perseverance, resilience,” she added.

The resiliency initiative and training will be implemented following approval by the Board of Education – which could be as soon as the fall semester.

“We have no time to waste on this – the lives of our children are on the line here,” Casey DeSantis said.