Last week, MHANYS had the opportunity to present at several sessions of the
Mental Health America Conference about the new law that begins on July 1st
in New York State, providing a mandate in health curriculums to teach about
mental health. There was great enthusiasm from across the country about the
new law. New York is a leader in embracing this issue, and based on the
nationwide grassroots interest, there will be a tidal wave of support
across the country in creating a mental health mandate in schools. The time
has come.

Earlier this week, there was an article in PEW Trust News letter
highlighting this movement to Mental Health Education in New York and now
in Virginia.

Look for many more resources about the law and the new webiste coming from
MHANYS in the weeks ahead.

Glenn

Many Recommend Teaching Mental Health in Schools. Now Two States Will
Require It

Stateline Article June 15, 2018

By: Christine Vestal

Many Recommend Teaching Mental Health in Schools. Now Two States Will
Require It

Amid sharply rising rates of teen suicide and adolescent mental illness,
two states have enacted laws that for the first time require public schools
to include mental health education in their basic curriculum.

Most states require health education in all public schools, and state laws
have been enacted in many states to require health teachers to include
lessons on tobacco, drugs and alcohol, cancer detection and safe sex.

Two states are going further: New York’s new law adds mental health
instruction to the list in kindergarten through 12th grade; Virginia
requires it in ninth and 10th grades.

Nationwide, cities and states have been adopting a variety of initiatives
over the past decade to address the rising need for mental health care in
schools.

But until this year, mandated mental health education had not been part of
the trend.

“We’re seeing a huge increase in youth anxiety and depression,” said Dustin
Verga, a high school health teacher in Clifton, New York, who was an early
advocate for the state’s new law.

“We teach them how to detect the signs of cancer and how to avoid
accidents, but we don’t teach them how to recognize the symptoms of mental
illness,” Verga said. “It’s a shame because, like cancer, mental health
treatment is much more effective if the disease is caught early.”

A report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this month
shows the U.S. suicide rate
<www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2018/p0607-suicide-prevention.html>
rose by a quarter between 1999 and 2016. That and two celebrity deaths this
month — those of fashion designer Kate Spade, 55, and chef Anthony
Bourdain, 61 — have raised the nation’s consciousness about depression and
suicide prevention.

But mental illness can set in much earlier than adulthood. More than half
of lifetime mental illnesses begin before age 14
<www.nami.org/Find-Support/NAMI-Programs/NAMI-Ending-the-Silence>,
according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Yet the average
person waits 10 years after the first symptoms occur
<www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/the-prevalence-and-treatment-of-mental-illness-today>
before getting treatment.

Nearly 9 percent of youth in grades nine through 12 said that they
attempted suicide in the past year.

By educating children of all ages about mental health, the hope is that
they will learn how to recognize early symptoms in themselves and their
friends and seek help before a crisis develops, said Paul Gionfriddo,
president and CEO of Mental Health America, a nonprofit that advocates for
better mental health care.

“People are talking more about youth mental health and the effects of
trauma on kids, but it’s taken a long time to get traction. I think what
we’ve seen recently in terms of school shootings is spurring this,”
Gionfriddo said. “It wouldn’t surprise me to see a number of states go in
the same direction over the next few years,” he said, referring to New York
and Virginia.

The rate of adolescents experiencing major depression
<pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/pediatrics/early/2016/11/10/peds.2016-1878.full.pdf>
surged nearly 40 percent from 2005 to 2014, according to a study by
researchers at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, rising to
an estimated 2.2 million depressed children
<www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/major-depression.shtml> ages 12
to 17, according to the most recent federal data.

Teen suicides also have spiked. According to the CDC, the suicide rate
among boys <www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/66/wr/mm6630a6.htm> ages 15 to
19 increased by nearly a third between 2007 and 2015; the suicide rate
among girls the same age more than doubled.

But that only accounts for the deaths. Nearly 9 percent of youths in grades
nine through 12 attempted suicide in the past year
<www.cdc.gov/features/yrbs/index.html>, according to the CDC’s 2015
Youth Risk Behaviors Survey.

In response, many states have increased funding for school counseling and
added psychologists to their health staffs. Others are thinking of doing
the same. Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott this month recommended adding
more counselors
<www.texastribune.org/2018/06/12/santa-fe-school-shooting-texas-greg-abbott-counselors/>
to schools following a mass shooting at a Santa Fe school. His is one of 20
states that don’t require school counselors.

And most states have adopted so-called mental health first aid programs
<www.mentalhealthfirstaid.org/about/legislation-policy/> to train
first responders, primary care physicians, teachers and other school
personnel to detect the signs of mental illness and addiction and provide
preventive measures including referral to treatment.

In addition, a slim majority of states mandate suicide prevention training
<afsp.org/our-work/advocacy/public-policy-priorities/suicide-prevention-in-schools/>
for school personnel, and close to a dozen states require annual courses.
More than a dozen states encourage and facilitate training, but do not
require it.

Different Paths

In New York, it was a nonprofit mental health group that came up with the
idea of requiring schools to educate students about mental illness in all
grades. That was seven years ago.

The Legislature was immediately interested, said John Richter, the public
policy director for the Mental Health Association in New York State Inc.
“The problem was finding a way to cut in line ahead of dozens of other
competing educational issues.”

It was the opioid crisis
<www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/blogs/stateline/2016/01/11/deadly-bias-why-medication-isnt-reaching-the-addicts-who-need-it>
and its strong connection with mental illness that ultimately allowed the New
York Assembly’s education committee to bring the mental health bill to a
vote
<assembly.state.ny.us/leg/?default_fld=%0D%0A&bn=A3887&term=2015&Summary=Y&Memo=Y>
in 2016, Richter said. Armed with research showing that people with mental
conditions often self-medicate with drugs and alcohol, the chairman found
an eager audience of lawmakers who wanted to do everything they could to
quell the overdose epidemic, he said.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, people with a mood or
anxiety disorder are more than twice as likely to develop an addiction
<www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/comorbidity-addiction-other-mental-disorders>
to opioids and other drugs.

New York’s law doesn’t prescribe a specific classroom curriculum for mental
health, leaving the details up to the board of education. But the state is
giving $1 million a year to the mental health association to offer an
online mental health resource center and free training services for
teachers starting in July.

In the fall, New York public school teachers will be encouraged to
incorporate the topic of mental illness into subjects such as science,
literature, history and social studies whenever possible, according to
Richter. And health teachers will be called on to develop lesson plans that
describe the disease of mental illness, methods of treating it, and healthy
coping techniques students can use to protect themselves and their friends
from the mounting pressures of school life.

“The life students live today is very different from what it was just 10
years ago,” Clifton’s Verga said. “Technology and social media have taken
over. Kids are getting cellphones at an earlier age and facing escalating
academic expectations and standardized assessments starting in third grade.”

Leticia Jenkins teaches a ninth-grade health class. Two states now require
health teachers to address rising rates of adolescent mental illness in
their classrooms. Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images

In Virginia, the path from idea to statute was much shorter.

The new law was the brainchild of three students who attended summer
classes on political leadership at the University of Virginia. For them,
the biggest political issue for high school kids was an urgent need for
more mental health resources.

With that in mind, they decided that the best approach would be a statewide
educational program that would explain the brain science behind mental
illness, help students learn how to improve their own mental well-being,
and reduce the stigma around mental health.

They found a receptive legislative sponsor in state Sen. Creigh Deeds, a
Democrat from Charlottesville whose son stabbed him and later killed
himself after being denied emergency psychiatric services in 2013.

Their bill flew through the Legislature and Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam
signed it into law in March. It is set to take effect in the fall.