Success and Impact

New CA Law Mandates Mental Health Education For Students

Two young people clasping hands in a greeting

During the COVID-19 pandemic, youth in California have experienced escalating mental health needs and face numerous barriers to accessing care and support. Recognizing that it’s critical for California to equip its young people with the information and tools to help them thrive, NCYL joined with partners to help craft legislation that will increase needed supports.

SB 224, which was signed into law by California Gov. Gavin Newsom in 2021, ensures, among other things, that health courses in middle and high schools include instruction on mental health, and that by January 2024, the California Department of Education develop a plan to expand this instruction 

The education the new law provides will help increase awareness, empower students to seek support, and reduce the stigma associated with experiencing mental health challenges.
Specifically, SB 224 will:

  • Require middle and high school health courses to include instruction in mental health.
  • Require that the instruction include, among other things, reasonably designed instruction on the overarching themes and core principles of mental health and promotion of welldness and protective factors.
  • Require that the instruction and related materials, among other things, be appropriate for use with students of all races, genders, sexual orientations, and ethnic and cultural backgrounds, students with disabilities, and English learners.
  • Require that by January 1, 2024, the California Department of Education develop a plan to expand mental health education in California public schools.

Much-needed reform

A June 2020 nationwide study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that a quarter of youth ages 18 to 24 said they had seriously considered suicide in the past 30 days, a figure that was more than twice the rate of any other group.

Children in California are particularly at-risk, as the state ranked 48th in the nation for providing children with needed mental health care, according to the most recent Commonwealth Fund Scorecard on State Health System Performance.

SB 224 addresses these troubling findings through education.

Historically, health education in subjects such as alcohol, tobacco and drugs, the early detection of certain cancers, and HIV have become required because they were recognized as public health crises. SB 224, authored by California Sen. Anthony Portantino, falls in line with these trends as the mental health of children and youth has reached a crisis point.

NCYL is proud to help California make educating its youth about mental health a top priority.

Joining NCYL in a broad coalition of supporters of SB 224 are the California Alliance of Children Family Services, NAMI California, California Association of Student Councils, California Youth Empowerment Network, GENup, Mental Health Services Oversight & Accountability Commission (MHSOAC), and The Children’s Partnership