The California Department of Education will create a protocol for schools to better address student mental health challenges, under a new law signed Friday by Gov. Gavin Newsom.
Assembly bill 309, sponsored by Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel (D-Woodland Hills) and Assemblymember Patrick O’Donnell (D-Long Beach), comes amid a surge in youth mental health disorders related to the pandemic. Depression, stress, anxiety and suidical ideation among young people all increased sharply in the past year, in part due to social isolation and economic instability.
The new protocol will help schools identify students who might need help and connect them with counseling or other services. Teachers, parents, counselors and students will be among those who help write the protocols.
The protocol must be complete within two years, according to the law.
“California was facing a student mental health crisis prior to the pandemic, and the current situation is even more troubling,” Gabriel said. “Our legislation will equip teachers with better tools and resources so that they can help our students navigate these extremely challenging times, particularly as we continue reopening our schools and bringing students back into the classroom after months of distance learning.”