Listed below is an article from Mental Health Weekly about the White Paper
MHANYS just put about mental health education in schools. The White Paper
has been well received in the community. To access a copy of the paper, go
to www.mhanys.org

White paper a framework for landmark MH education law

MENTAL HEALTH WEEKLY
Volume 27 Number 42
October 30, 2017

In the year since New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed landmark legislation
mandating that mental health education be taught in schools, the lead
agency behind that effort Oct. 19 released a new report that not only
provides historical context for the law, but also a framework and guiding
principles for its implementation next year.

The Mental Health Association of New York State (MHANYS) on
Oct. 19 released the white paper “Mental Health Education in New York
Schools: Review of Legislative History, Intent and Vision for
Implementation.”

Gov. Cuomo signed legislation into law Oct. 3, 2016, that requires middle schools and
high schools in New York state to have an education curriculum on mental
health for all students. The new law becomes effective July 2018 (see *MHW*,
Oct. 17, 2016).

Currently, New York state schools teach about alcohol, tobacco and cancer
screenings, and have done so for decades, according to MHANYS. And while
the new law requires mental health be included in the school health
curriculum, it does not include provisions specifying curriculum content.
The state’s school districts will be responsible for developing its own
curriculum, said MHANYS CEO Glenn Liebman. “It’s not mandated what
curriculum they’re using or how long. It could be one class or one week or
two,” Liebman told MHW.

Although MHANYS supports the legislation, the organization did not want to
stop there, said Liebman. “We want to make sure the education field is well
aware of what’s happening with mental health,” he said. The paper
identifies trends in mental health, along with recommendations to help
inform schools in the development of mental health curricula.

The paper encourages schools to rely on community partners for the purpose
of educating students and building collaborative relationships that can
connect students and families with community resources for the purposes of
treatment and support. He praised the partnership with the New York
education department and their combined work on guidance to ensure that
mental health is taught in the schools by the fall of next year. “We’re
going to work with them to develop guidelines and priorities about what we
think should be taught about mental health in the schools,” he said.

“The bottom line is that some schools are teaching mental health and doing
a great job, some not so much, and some not at all,” he said.

Mental health evolving

Mental health literacy and education have evolved over the years, Liebman
said. “We want to make sure our collaboration with the education field
understands that,” he said. “We want to make sure the information is as
relevant and as timely as possible.”

The average onset of mental illness commences at age 14 in half of
individuals with mental illness. It takes about 10 years before they start
seeking treatment, he said. “We want to really close that gap,” said
Liebman. “We look at that gap as one of the most disturbing trends in
mental health over the years.”

Liebman added, “Anxiety and depression are very impactful for youth, which
we discuss in the report. We know prevention and early intervention work.”

Educators are not expected to start becoming clinicians, said Liebman. “It
could be a soft touch — not a strong clinical intervention,” he stated. An
understanding of mental health is what’s critical, she noted.

The fact that legislators and the governor were willing to move on mental
health education legislation is “a reflection of what’s going on in society
and in our Community,” said Liebman. People are recognizing there’s more
discrimination about mental health, he said. “We have to seek solutions
instead of talking about it,” Liebman said.

According to the research conducted by MHANYS, while some states are
teaching mental health as part of their curricula, no other state around
the country is mandated to do so, like New York. Liebman said he hopes to
witness at some point a significant increase in students around the country
being educated about mental health. “We now have concrete solutions to put
forward because of this legislation,” said Liebman. •

 

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