I want to congratulate New York and Virginia for leading the way in requiring mental health education in their schools! For the first time, two U.S. states enacted their respective mental health education laws this month. New York and Virginia are now committed to combatting the rising tide of depression and mental health challenges that are linked to the second leading cause of death for young Americans in 2016: suicide. Virginia will add a mental health component to the physical and health education curricula for ninth and tenth graders. In New York, elementary, middle-, and high-school curricula will include mental health.

In April 2017, I approached the Florida Constitution Revision Commission (CRC) to take decisive steps towards requiring mental health education in our schools across the state. I imagined Florida being the state that would pioneer such a transformation in education. I approached them multiple times. Sadly, prioritizing mental health for our children did not make it on the ballot for 2018 for voters to decide. However, I realize that Florida could still enact a law that requires mental health education and I will continue my efforts to make this happen.

Adolescents contemplating or attempting suicide has nearly tripled between 2008 and 2015. The pursuit of happiness should be the driving force in all governments. Hopefully, Florida will now fully understand the urgency and follow the example set in New York and in Virginia to help our society get out of this health crisis and immediately provide children with the appropriate tools they need to achieve their well-deserved happiness.

New York City has nearly one million students in their district. The summation of Miami-Dade County, Broward County, and Hillsborough County, puts them second to New York City. The top three Florida school districts represent together the second largest student enrollment in the nation. If we can reach these children while they are in their critical years of formation, I am certain that we can impact every child’s ability to achieve mental wellness and happiness.

Today, children represent 25% of the population, but they are 100% of our future. I have already witnessed the impact of Triumph Steps™ in select Miami-Dade County schools, local programs and homes with children who are allotted just 12 minutes daily to apply the program. I have seen their attitudes shift to be more positive and happier. Happy, compassionate children do not bully, do not kill. I will continue to champion this effort and loudly cheer for those states making a change for the betterment of our children’s health. I have faith that Florida will also soon choose to be a leader in advocating for children’s mental health. The day this materializes, I will to tell you how Triumph Steps™ will continue to be a part of the transformation in emotional literacy.