As we get closer to implementation of the mental health in schools
legislation, there is a growing interest in the media about New York being
the first State in the nation to have such an impactful law. In the past
week, the Albany Times Union, Google and now the website, The Mighty have
all done major stories on this reform. We look forward to the months ahead
as this change will be operationalized in schools across New York State.Listed
below is the article from The Mighty

New York First State to Require Mental Health Education in Schools

Sarah Schuster

In July, New York will become the first state in the U.S. to require all
schools to incorporate mental health education into their curriculum,
Yahoo reported.

The Mental Health Association in New York State (MHANYS)
— the group that spearheaded the legislation — said a move like this was
long overdue, considering other public health issues, like alcohol and drug
abuse, are regularly addressed in schools.

According to a report put out by MHANYS, the first signs and symptoms
of mental health problems begin, on average, at about 14 years of age.
Early intervention can be crucial, but often adults — and students
themselves — miss early warning signs.

Many adults miss or dismiss these early signs and symptoms and young people
are even less likely to recognize or understand what is happening to them.
And even when there is some recognition that a young person is struggling,
stigma often causes people to ignore, dismiss or rationalize a child’s true
need for help. The result is often as tragic as it is unnecessary.

Young people between the ages of 16 and 24 who live with a mental illness
are four times less likely than their peers to be involved in “gainful
activities,” like employment, college or trade school, after completing
their primary education. One in 12 high school students have attempted
suicide .

In her piece “How My Life Would Have Been Different If I Had Mental
Health Education in High School,” Mighty contributor Rachel Fiore said
learning about mental health issues might have empowered her to get
help sooner. She wrote:

High school health class teaches students about safe sex, the dangers of
drunk driving and drugs. But why is mental health never a focus in high
school health classes? If health classes taught about mental health, I
would have realized it was not OK to swallow back the puke every day. I
would have realized it was not “normal” to have my hair falling out at such
a young age or to believe that one day my friends would decide to hate me.
I would have realized it was not OK that the thought of college would make
me physically ill.

I lacked in self-confidence in high school and I believe if I had this
education then, my confidence would have been greater. I would have
realized what I was experiencing and feeling was something I should be
concerned with, and not every teenager felt this way every day. I would
have been able to get some help.

While the legislation requires mental health to be taught in all New York
public schools, grades K-12, the provisions do not specify exactly what
should be in the curriculum. The authors of the MHANYS report wrote it will
be up to the New York State Education Department to implement the law and
decide how exactly mental health will be taught.

MHANYS Director of Public Policy John Richter told The Mighty the group
will remain involved in the implementation of the legislation. They’re
already working with the New York State Education Department and a mental
health Advisory Council to develop regulations and guidelines. According
to Richter, the council includes more than 40 educators and mental health
experts.

“The intent of this law is to take a public health approach to teaching
about mental health,” Richter said. “In other words, giving students the
knowledge and resources they need to help recognize the early signs of
mental health problems and how to get help.

——————————

Sarah Schuster is the mental health editor at The Mighty. She thinks every
day should be a mental health day. Follow her on Twitter @saraheliztweets
.
——————————

Glenn Liebman, CEO

Mental Health Association in New York State, Inc.

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