State House Bill could require mental health screening for all Mississippi students

Published: Jan. 19, 2023 at 10:17 PM CST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - One of the many bills being brought to the table this legislative session could address one of the biggest issues students in Mississippi are facing each day - their mental health.

Studies show that 1 out of 5 children in the United States experience a mental disorder in a given year. Yet educators and mental health specialists said it’s one of the least addressed areas in schools. Now, one state leader is looking to change that statistic.

“Every genre of life is affected by the mental health crisis that we’re having,” Representative Tracey Rosebud said.

A bill making its way through the House could change the way mental health is addressed inside Mississippi schools.

House Bill 865 would require two things: each student to receive periodic mental health screenings by a mental health professional and for schools to employ more school psychologists.

“It’s no slight or anything to say that your child has a specific disability. But we as individuals, need to know where our kids are. Sometimes we become complacent and think that our children are mentally sound. And they’re going through a lot of things,” Rep. Rosebud explained.

Director of Education Solutions for Canopy Children’s Solutions and former principal, Sean Brewer, said it’s something his organization is already working on.

“We’re currently right now working a pilot and in a partnership with the Madison County School District, to place a therapist in two different schools, but then also the leverage technology to allow us to screen those students whose parents choose for them to participate in this pilot,” Brewer said.

Right now, state laws require school employees to be trained in mental health and suicide prevention... and place a lot of responsibility on educators.

Brewer and Rep. Tracey Rosebud said the bill could help alleviate that burden.

“Teachers and principals are asked to be all things to all people at all times. And it’s just not fair. And it’s not, it’s not really possible, it’s hard to do the job that you’re there to really do at its best being expected to be everything,” Brewer said.

And while this isn’t the first time this bill has passed through hands at the capital, Rep. Rosebud believes the current mental health crisis could help the bill to become law.

“I’m hoping and I’m prayerful that it will spark the minds of the individuals that sit here in the chambers with me, that we need to pass it,” Rep. Rosebud said.

“In these situations where some terrible things have happened, we might catch and provide some resources and help one of those students before they might decide to do something tragic,” Brewer said.

Representative Rosebud added that along with helping students’ mental health, the bill could also help bring grades up and keep kids from acting out.

Want more WLBT news in your inbox? Click here to subscribe to our newsletter.