Letter: Utah needs a required mental health curriculum for all K-12 schools

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah muralist and mosaicist Roger Whiting and Herriman High School student Mati Simonds discuss the artwork of the new mural dedicated to mental health awareness located at 3091 South 2700 West in West Valley City, Mar. 16, 2021.

We know there is a widespread problem with mental health. According to the APA, there is a mental health crisis in children. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states, “Nearly 1 in 5 children have a mental, emotional, or behavioral disorder,” and “only 20% receive care from a specialized mental health care provider” (CDC, 2023). In House Bill 403, Utah requires Local Education Agencies (LEAs) to opt in or out of mental health screening programs for students. Code 53F-2-522 sets the standards of implementation.

While I am grateful that some children will have more access to screenings with this program, I am sincerely disappointed that a required mental health curriculum for all K-12 Utah schools did not accompany this bill.

Childhood is critical for cognitive, emotional, social and physical development. Children need to learn skills at home, but unfortunately, some do not.

What if, in addition to physical education, we create a class that discusses boundary setting, coping skills, breathing exercises, self-compassion, emotion regulation, self-awareness, building healthy relationships, time management, destigmatization, and symptoms and treatment?

I did not know I could set a boundary until I was 24, which changed my life.

My elementary and high school education lacked discussion of important and necessary life and adult skills. Even the class bully needs these skills; all children would benefit, the schools as a system would benefit, and the world as a whole would benefit.

Valerie Fisher, Fairview

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