October 3, 2016

Contact:  Glenn Liebman, CEO (cell 518-360-7916) (office 518-434-0439)
John Richter, Director of Public Policy (office 518-434-0439)

Governor Signs Historic Education Bill to Teach Mental Health to Youth

Middle schools and high schools have been teaching about various health
topics since the 1970s. The current State Education Law requires schools
to provide instruction in topics such as the use and misuse of alcohol,
tobacco, and substances and the early detection of cancer. Now, under new
legislation signed by Governor Cuomo, mental health instruction will be
added to the list of critical health issues that youth will learn about.

The new legislation, sponsored by Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan (D-Queens) and
Senator Carl Marcellino (R-Nassau), passed with near unanimous support in
the State Legislature. “This legislation represents a policy goal that the
Mental Health Association in New York State, Inc. (MHANYS) has advocated
for over the past five years” according to MHANYS’ CEO Glenn Liebman. “We
are celebrating the passage of this vital legislation on behalf of young
people in New York and their families. By ensuring that young people are
educated about mental health, we increase the likelihood that they will be
able to recognize signs in themselves and others that indicate when help is
needed and how to get help,” Liebman said.

Some 20 percent of Americans will be diagnosed with a mental illness at
some point in their lives, and about half of them will begin experiencing
symptoms as early as 14 years of age. Too often, however, these signs are
missed and young people go without treatment for years, often suffering
academically, abusing alcohol and drugs, getting into legal trouble, and
too often, tragically losing their lives to suicide. In the same way that
people can be taught to recognize the early signs and symptoms of other
illnesses and get the help they need, the same can be taught about mental
illness according to proponents of the new law.

John Richter, Director of Public Policy at MHANYS, commented that “we
possess the knowledge and tools necessary to increase awareness in young
people about mental health, how to recognize when someone’s in distress or
crisis and how to get help. Why in the world would we withhold this
lifesaving information from our youth?” In fairness, some schools have
already taken the initiative to teach about mental health and suicide
prevention, but these efforts have not been consistent across the state and
many schools are unsure about their role and the appropriateness of
teaching this subject matter. The new law will settle any ambiguity along
these lines.

Advocates and many experts believe that teaching the facts about mental
health and openly discussing the issues with students will lessen the
stigma surrounding mental illnesses. Young people and their families would
feel more comfortable seeking help, academic performance for all students
would be enhanced, and ultimately, lives can be saved.

“This was a true grassroots effort driven by our members, thousands of
people in the community and many of our colleague organizations,” according
to Liebman.

The new law becomes effective in July 2018. Schools will have until
September of the same year when school resumes after the summer break to
have curriculums and teachers in place ready to begin teaching about mental

Mental Health Association in New York State, Inc. (MHANYS) is a
not-for-profit organization comprised of 26 affiliates in 52 counties
throughout New York State. The mission of MHANYS is to promote mental
health and recovery, eliminate discrimination, and raise public awareness
with education and support.


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