TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Research shows about 200,000 Florida kids suffer from untreated mental health disorders. Basketball star Earvin “Magic” Johnson wants to cut that number down.

In partnership with Simply Healthcare, a managed care plan within Florida’s Medicare and Medicaid networks, the Los Angeles Lakers legend brought his message to Tallahassee on Tuesday.

During his visit, he pushed for change and raised awareness.

Magic Johnson speaks in Tallahassee to students about mental health, Nov. 2, 2021

E.W. Scripps
Magic Johnson speaks to students about mental health on Nov. 2, 2021, in Tallahassee, Fla.

The former NBA pro met with a handful of high school and college students at Florida’s Historic Capitol Building, urging them to speak up if they’re suffering.

“Your close buddy, talk to them about mental health,” Johnson said. “I hope you take the challenge to say, ‘I am always going to be here for you. And if you’re going through something, you’re going to do the same thing. You’re going to pick up the phone.'”

With Florida’s Legislature set to return to lawmaking in January, Johnson also said he hoped lawmakers would recognize the mental health problems that need to be addressed.

Mental health in children

E.W. Scripps/National Institute of Mental Health
The National Institute of Mental Health says one in five children have a diagnosable mental health issue.

Some of the latest data from the National Institute of Mental Health suggest suicide is the second leading cause of death among those 10 to 34.

“We just have to come together, as a community, as a state, as lawmakers, to do something about it — to help them,” he said.

For now, only a handful of bills are on file to address mental health in 2022. Among them, a review of the state’s suicide prevention office to find weaknesses.

Also, lawmakers are seeking more research on alternative mental health treatments like ketamine.

The 2022 legislative session begins Jan. 11 and lasts 60 days.