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A mental health curriculum bill gets mixed public reactions

Fifth grade boy sitting in school
Taylor Wilcox
Boy sitting in a classroom

The Behavior Health Curriculum Program bill sponsored by Sen. Daniel Thatcher, a republican from West Valley, was discussed in the Senate Education Committee on Tuesday. This bill would create a mental health education curriculum for elementary and secondary education. Republican Rep. Steve Eliason from Sandy, who worked with Sen. Thatcher on the bill, said this idea is close to him.

“I had a child who had been hospitalized, and I was going to therapy with him,” Eliason said. “I thought as I was learning some of the things that I thought, why didn't I ever learn this stuff in school?”

If passed, the bill would require the Huntsman Mental Health Institute to work with the State Board of Education to create age appropriate materials for public school students about mental health challenges facing today’s youth. Rep. Eliason said this subject is not talked about enough.

“To get upstream to teach children about resiliency, teach them the brain is the most complex, the largest organ in the body, and things go wrong with it just like they do any other organ, and that's okay,” Eliason said.

Huntsman Mental Health Institute CEO Mark Rapaport said this bill will utilize all resources.

“We're partnering with experts in child psychology and psychiatry. We're more than willing to partner with parents and intend to do so,” Rapaport said.

But some, like Utah Parents United legislative director Emily Daly, think these resources are being poured into the wrong places.

“The front engine is not the school, it is the home,” Daly said. “It's not to be squeezed into an already overpacked school day.”

The bill is on the Senate second reading calendar.

Emma Feuz is a senior at Utah State University majoring in broadcast journalism with minors in sociology and political science. She grew up in Evanston, Wyoming where, just like Utah State, the sagebrush also grows. Emma found her love of writing at an early age and slowly discovered her interest in all things audio and visual throughout her years in school. She is excited to put those passions to use at UPR. When school isn't taking up her time, Emma loves longboarding, cheering on the Denver Broncos, and cleaning the sink at Angies.