Students in Seminole County push for mental health training

A youth-coalition presented a resolution about mental health initiatives to the Seminole County School Board during a board meeting Tuesday night.

“The purpose of this resolution is to close the gap between the mental health services that students need and what’s currently being provided,” said Seminole County High School senior Malavika Kannan. She is a member of the coalition, which is made up of students, community activists and representatives of March for our Lives Orlando.

"Pass the mental health resolution that we bring," Kannan told the board. 

Kannan said the group wants board members to call upon state legislatures to increase funding for mental health programs in school. They also want the school board to meet once a year with a demographically, diverse group of students to discuss the mental health framework.

"Students of my generation have grown up in an era characterized by violence and mass shootings and we really believe the key to solving these issues is primarily gun control but also addressing issues like mental health," she said.

Kannan said the group is also pushing to have students and staff attend one hour of mandatory mental health first aid training to increase the conversations around mental health and reduce the stigmatism surrounding it.

"Mental health first aid training for every faculty member," Kannan described it. 

"Our entire school board went through mental health training, so we can understand the depth of this work we have ahead of us," explained Dr. Walt Griffin, the superintendent for the Seminole County Public Schools. "All we would be doing is asking to screen, doesn't mean we're all mental health specialists. We do have 13 new mental health counselors and we know that we need more and there's more work to do."

Kannan's intent is to get this resolution passed by the end of the year.

"Show that we're not longer being silent and complacent. We're active stake holders in our school safety," she said.

On Thursday, Seminole County will be holding a mental health safety summit to talk about what is available to students.

Non-profit organization The Foundation of Seminole County Public Schools is also hosting a text-to-give fundraiser for people interested in donating money to help with school safety and mental health initiatives in Seminole County Schools. Text SCPS to 243-725 through March 6 to donate.