Bill would offer Michigan teachers mental illness recognition training

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LANSING (WJRT) (2/22/2018) - The Michigan House of Representatives' Mental Health Task Force has introduced a bill that would offer teachers mental health first aid.

"Trauma, or suicidal thoughts, or anxiety, depression, really any of those sorts of things that could trigger behavior that a teacher might spot firsthand in the classroom," Rep. Vanessa Guerra (D - Saginaw) explained.

Guerra sits on the task force that helped craft the bill. She called it a proactive approach to protecting Michigan students.

"The hope is that the sooner we can identify those that are - that have mental health issues - and that are harmful to themselves and potentially others, you know, the sooner we can kind of tackle that issue and hopefully get them the help that they need," Guerra said.

The training would not be mandated. Guerra explained teachers are required to participate in so many hours of professional development, so this would be one option for them.

An option that's garnering support from both sides of the aisle.

"I fully support the bill," Rep. Joseph Graves (R - Argentine Township). "I think it's important we give our schools opportunity to have tools that they can look for red flag signs, warning signs, that individuals may be having some mental issues or having some distress."

Graves said if it passes, the training would be a big move towards safer schools.

"If there were so many warning signs in Florida, this individual, Mr. Cruz, either it didn't get reported, or they reported it and nothing happened, so let's put the tools in there so they can recognize this."

"I think that's a great way to start," Mom Emily Bogart said.

She attended a rally at the Capitol Thursday for safer schools. Bogart said taking a closer look at mental health will make a big difference.

"I think that it's really easy to think 'oh this won't happen to my kid or this won't happen in my school,' but from all walks of life and all socioeconomic environments, children are struggling. We need to be open to getting them the help that they need," she said.

Representative Guerra is hopeful schools will one day have more social workers and psychologists in the schools, rather than putting all of this responsibility on a teacher.

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