Last week’s Mental Health Weekly featured an article about MHANYS recent
Mental Health and Education Summit. We are very pleased to see the State
Education Department’s strong commitment to implementation of this
significant legislation. For more information about this legislation and
to be on our list serve regarding this issue, please contact John Richter
at jrichter@mhanys.org.

Mental health education summit lays groundwork for new law
Mental Health Weekly, March 27, 2017

New York mental health advocates hosted a summit March 16 in Albany to lay
the groundwork for the mental health education law signed by Gov. Andrew
Cuomo last fall. The Mental Health Education in Schools Summit marks the
first opportunity for educators and mental health advocates to learn about
the implementation of the new law, said advocates.

Bottom Line…
The New York mental health education law takes effect July 1, 2018. Local
districts will decide how the law is implemented, say education officials.

The state’s middle and high schools have been teaching about 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. According to the new law,
mental health instruction will be a part of New York’s education curriculum.

The New York State Senate passed the landmark Mental Health Education (S.
6046) bill on June 15, 2016. The law could not only increase understanding about
mental health issues, but reduce stigma as well (see MHW, June 27, 2016).

“We invited the SED [State Education Department] and wanted to provide them
an opportunity and forum to speak directly to stakeholders as to what their
role will be and how to move forward with implementation,” John Richter, Mental
Health Association in New York State (MHANYS) public policy director, told
MHW.

MHANYS has worked with legislators for five years to pass this law. “We w
anted to make sure we could pass along the vision we had and what legislator
s agree to,” said Richter. “As educators develop their curriculum, MHANYS
wants schools to reach out to them or to local Mental Health America
affiliates with questions.

Educators shared with the audience some activities from a regulatory
standpoint regarding the law’s implementation, said Richter. “This is about
building relationships between stakeholders in education and the mental
health community,” he said.

Landmark law

“There is no other law like this in the country,” Glenn Liebman, CEO of
MHANYS, told MHW. Part of the reason for holding the summit was to inform
educators about the available resources around the state, said Liebman.

MHANYS affiliates are in 52 of the state’s 62 counties, said Liebman. “We
have members across the state who are very engaged with the school
districts,” he said.

This “significant” bill has ramifications for years to come, he said. The
whole thrust of this effort was to let young people know that one in five
people have a serious mental illness and that it’s okay to talk about it,
Liebman said. “The more we can educate youth about it, the outcomes are so
much better,” he said. “We will be aggressive over the next 15 months to
ensure significant curriculum changes around mental health.”

MaryEllen Elia, commissioner of the State Education Department, delivered
the keynote address. “It was really important to get the education
commissioner there,” said Liebman. “She’s a significant voice around
education and reform.” Her presence at a mental health event was symbolic,
he said. “It symbolizes that this message is important,” he said.

Holistic approach

The assistant commissioner of student support services at the State
Education Department told MHW that mental health matters equally as
physical health. “We want a holistic approach that looks at the whole
child,” said Renee Rider. “We need to reduce the stigma associated with
mental health.”

Education officials say they intend to provide guidance documents and
resources to schools, and it will be up to local districts to
develop/implement evidence-based curricula, said Rider. “It is our vision
that all students receive this information,” she said. “We want to
encourage community organizations to connect with schools and for schools
to do that as well.”

Rider explained that educators will promote coordination of school health
efforts to build strong collaborations among the pupil personnel services
staff, which includes school counselors, school social workers, school
psychologists, nurses, and involvement with teachers and health educators.
“Each school district is required to have a local wellness policy, and this
would be an avenue for school nurses to lead this effort,” she said.

Vision for all students

“Our focus has a few visions,” said Rider. “We have a vision to educate
students at a very young age and teach them what depression looks like and
that it’s OK to seek help.” Educators want students to know that mental
health matters, Rider said. “Stigma has to be significantly reduced,” she
said. “We have to make sure people get the help they need. It’s important
to start at a young age. Mental health is really key here.”

Rider noted that more focus groups and discussions with members of the
mental health community, mental health experts and educators are
forthcoming for guidance on what the curriculum should look like. “In New
York state, we will provide some guidance and consistent standards,” she
said. Local school districts will ultimately determine what they teach.
Consistent standards will help guide their work on a local level, and there
will be some flexibility, Rider said. Suicide prevention is also slated to
be part of the curriculum, she added.

New York state is at the front of the pack in many areas, said Rider. “This
could make a difference across the nation,” she said. “Our education policy
could help society as a whole understand mental health issues and move
toward a healthier society.”

The goal, said Rider, is to understand yourself and those around you and to
provide referrals when needed and appropriate. “It’s about making that call
if mental health is an issue,” she said. The education plan aims to help
students recognize the signs of mental illness in themselves or others,
Rider noted.

Students will learn about clinical depression and that it’s OK to seek
help, she said. “We want to infiltrate the system at all levels, from
elementary to high school,” Rider said.

Rider added, “Congratulations to the advocates for getting this bill
introduced and signed into law.”

New York educators and mental health groups intend to hold further
discussions to address the mental health and suicide prevention curricula
for the state’s schools.

Advocates unveil recommendations for mental health instruction in schools

The groundbreaking mental health education law signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo
last year will require schools in New York state to begin teaching about
mental health starting in July 2018.*

The Mental Health Association in New York State recommended the following
nine core elements that should be included in school mental health
curricula:

1. The concept of wellness (e.g., eight dimensions of wellness) including
self-care and personal responsibility for one’s own mental health and
wellness.

2. The concept of mental health as an integral part of health.

3. The recognition of the signs and symptoms of developing mental health
problems.

4. Instruction in the awareness and management of mental health crises
such as the risk of suicide, self-harm and other mental health crises.

5. The relationship between mental health, substance use and other
negative coping behaviors.

6. The negative impact of stigma and cultural attitudes toward mental
illness on treatment-seeking behavior and as a contributing factor in
discrimination against people with mental illnesses.

7. The concept of recovery from mental illness.

8. The implications of risk factors, protective factors and resiliency on
wellness, mental health and recovery.

9. Instruction in identifying appropriate professionals, services and
family/social supports for treating and maintaining recovery from mental
illness.

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