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Lawmaker pushes for mental health day for students in Florida

Posted at 12:09 PM, Oct 26, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-26 12:09:03-04

FORT MYERS, Fla. – Nowadays, kids are dealing with a lot: the pressure of getting good grades, dealing with bullies and being bombarded with everything on social media.

A new Florida bill is aiming to give students the opportunity to stay home from school for a mental health day.

Most of us adults have taken a mental health day or at least wanted to. One state lawmaker said kids should have that option for school.

A Fort Myers student said it might not be a bad idea, given the stress he has to deal with because of a medical condition.

14-year-old Ashton Brewster said he checks his blood sugar levels 6 times a day after being diagnosed with Type one diabetes last month.

His mom, Sarah Alexander said it’s taken a toll of him physically and mentally.

“After he was diagnosed, I was getting a call once a day from the nurse at school. He was getting anxiety from his blood sugar levels being off,” said Alexander.

She said the stress prevented Ashton from doing everyday schoolwork and activities.

“It’s sad because you want your child to be happy and healthy,” said Alexander.

“If a child is dealing with their physical health, of course they are gonna have mental and emotional struggles,” said FGCU therapist, Dr. Alise Bartley.

Dr. Bartley said kids are also under a lot of pressure these days to be successful.

“Our children have more issues with anxiety and depression than ever before. We have an increase in suicide rates,” said Dr. Bartley.

She supports House bill 315.

“Our young people are so stressed out and they need to take a break,” said Dr. Bartley.

The bill would allow students to use one day per semester to focus on their mental health, something Ashton’s mom said he can use now and then.

“We want our kids to be physically and emotionally safe,” said Alexander.

Florida is not the first state to consider mental health days for students. Utah and Oregon already have laws in place. If passed in Florida, the law would take effect in July of 2020.

Dr. Bartley said if your child is struggling mentally, there are signs to lookout for: lack of or too much sleep, irritability and not engaging with others.