Listed is a copy of the most recent issue of MHANYS Healthy Young Minds
Publication. It was sent out to schools across New York State before the
end of the school year. There is a great deal of information packed in this
publication including up to date information about the implementation of
the Mental Helth in Schools Legislation. There are several other
informational resources including an excellent article regarding youth and
gambling addictions.

June 2018, Issue 8

This newsletter is for educators, parents, and students about mental
health in schools. The information contained in this is intended for
reuse. Please share and give credit to MHANYS.

School Mental Health Resource & Training Center Coming July 2018

The Mental Health Association in New York State, Inc. (MHANYS) received
legislative funding in this year’s state budget to fund a School Mental
Health Resource and Training Center. The Center was created to support
schools’ ability to comply with Chapter 390 of the Laws of 2016. Effective
July 1, 2018, all elementary, middle, and high schools in the state must
begin teaching about mental health as part of the school health curricula
(see article on page 5 for details about the new requirement). The Center
will focus primarily on helping schools identify resources, develop mental
health curricula and provide guidance to support schools’ ability to comply
with the required mental health education of students. To further support
the efforts of schools, the Center will provide mental health training for
staff and provide schools with assistance in establishing community
partnerships to meet the mental health services needs of students and

Beginning in early July, the Center will launch a website dedicated to the
implementation of this new law. Visit on July 1st for more
information. This website will be of interest to three audiences: 1)
education professionals, 2) community providers, and 3) caregivers and the
general public. Education specialists and mental health advocates will be
available Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. to provide additional
support and guidance. They can also be contacted via a web-based form, by
emailing, or calling 518-434-0439. In
addition to MHANYS staff, our affiliate network of Mental Health
Associations will serve as Project Partners and Regional Representatives
across NYS; they will be available to provide support and guidance to
schools at the local level and host regional summits. All of the services
provided by the Center are free to New York schools.

“Put That Phone Down!” When Online Games Aren’t Just Online Games

Prior to the publishing of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual V (DSMV),
pathological gambling (PG) was classified under the section titled “Impulse
Control Disorders Not Elsewhere Classified.” The disorder is now
classified under Substance-Related and Addictive Disorders and is referred
to as a “Gambling Disorder”. According to the American Psychiatric
Association, a Gambling Disorder involves repeated problematic gambling
behavior that causes significant problems or distress.

Did you know about the slippery slope of behavior from gaming to gambling
and possibly a Gambling Disorder? With the introduction of new technology
every day, this transition is becoming more of a reality for our youth.
Adding to this concern is the recent Supreme Court ruling that struck down
a 1992 federal law that effectively banned commercial sports betting in
most states, opening the door to legalizing the wagers on professional and
amateur sports. New York, like many other states, is already poised to
pass legislation that would make the practice legal.

Kids are being introduced to gambling via social media. It starts
innocently enough. Kids join popular social media sites to connect with
their friends. They start playing games through these new online
connections. Then you get your cell phone bill and notice a large charge
by an internet game for coins or tokens. By now you’ve realized that your
child’s gaming has increased, but how will you know if they make the
transition to gambling?

Here are some online activities to look out for that might set the stage
for future gambling- social casino games are free to play online games that
mimic typical casino-style games, such as slot machines, and are often
linked to social media channels to promote play through interactive gaming
and leader boards. Although these games can be free to play, they
typically offer coins or tokens that can be purchased to increase chances,
play options, etc. These games are becoming increasingly available and
accessible for youth and, due to their accessibility and interactive
nature, social casino games are highly attractive to the young brain.

Fantasy sports are online games in which participants can create their own
sports team and place bets that their team will come out on top.
Traditionally, fantasy sports leagues took place over an entire season. In
more recent years, we’ve seen the addition of daily fantasy sports, in
which you can recreate a new team each day. Fantasy sports are highly
attractive for youth involved in athletics, as well as those who are not
athletes and may be looking to fit in. Daily fantasy sports increase the
frequency, intensity and availability of this form of online gambling
causing these games to be more risky for youth.

Online poker may be the most recognized form of online gambling. Many
online poker sites offer two forms of play – free play and pay-to-play.
Free play online poker sites do not require money for players to
participate and are typically open to players of any age. Because money is
not involved, these sites are not held to the same regulation as
pay-to-play online poker sites and odds can be manipulated in any way
desired by the site owners. Pay-to-play poker sites offer the same games
as free play sites, but require the use of money to play. On pay-to-play
online poker sites, participants place bets and risk money in online poker
games with other players and/or against the house (i.e. the computer
algorithm within the site). Pay-to-play sites are held to stricter
standards regarding odds and payouts. These sites are also required to
verify participants’ ages. This is typically done by entering a
birthdate. Youth who begin playing on free play sites and experience
winning may be enticed to enter a pay-to-play site. By simply entering an
incorrect birthdate, youth are accessing online poker sites and are losing
large amounts of money.

Why you should be aware and cautious – Recent data collected by the New
York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services found that
over 39% of youth in middle and high schools across the state have gambled
in the year prior to the survey, and the majority of youth who gamble,
began gambling at age 10 or younger. Research shows that some of the most
predicting factors for a gambling problem are early exposure to gambling,
gambling-related behaviors, and high frequency of gambling, especially at a
young age.

Although many of the games described above may be free, these games can
serve as a child’s first introduction to gambling behaviors and can
contribute to the development of a future gambling problem. Underage
gambling can also lead to a number of negative consequences:

– Increased risk for ADDICTION
– Increased risk for DELINQUENCY and CRIME
– Poor academic performance
– Mental health issues including DEPRESSION and ANXIETY
– Increased risk for SUBSTANCE USE and ABUSE

What parents can do to help protect their kids – Limit your child’s time
and access to social casino games. Tell your children that excessive
gaming and underage gambling are not acceptable. Only 85.4% of youth
believe that their parents feel that it’s wrong for them to gamble. Have
you had the conversation about the dangers of underage gambling and your
conviction against underage gambling with your kids?

What schools can do – Examine access and substance use policies to ensure
that youth access to social casino gaming at school is limited and that
gambling is included in the list of prohibited activities on school
property. Only 9.2% of youth surveyed report having seen a prevention
message in their school or community in the past month for underage
gambling. Are you communicating a zero tolerance policy toward underage
gambling to your students?

What communities and agencies can do – Start the conversation with parent
and youth groups, as well as community coalitions, about the nature of
social casino games and the dangers of underage gambling. Reduce youth
access to gambling by restricting them from selling and purchasing raffle
tickets, and risking money on games of chance and skill.

New online opportunities are making it easier than ever for youth to become
introduced to gambling and are increasing children’s risk for a gambling
problem. Three of the driving risk factors for youth who begin gambling
and develop a gambling problem are introduction to gambling at a young age,
easy access to gambling, and the widespread availability of gambling. With
a little bit of effort, we can all help to mitigate these risks and provide
a healthy, safe, gambling-free environment for youth.

Innovations in Mental Health Education: A regular feature of Healthy Young

Teaching Comfort, Awakening Empathy in your Classroom

It’s no secret that there is a silent epidemic among us that continues to
escalate and trend upward on all levels of society – the Loneliness
Epidemic. You most likely see it every day… students and staff isolated
away as they suffer from stress, depression, anxiety, trauma, grief,
illness, etc. We ourselves are often hesitant to reach out and connect with
and comfort them. We think “I don’t know what to say,” “I don’t want to
bring it up and make them upset,” “I think they are probably over it.”
These non-actions leave the struggling person feeling even more alone, more
isolated and more hurt. These non-actions are prevalent on all levels of
society today.

According to the creators of Inspiring Comfort, teaching and facilitating
acts of kindness may not be enough. To end being lonely and isolated, these
innovators encourage students to make meaningful, caring connections;
however, kindness does not always require that meaningful connection. It
can be done randomly or with the click of an emoji.

Inspiring Comfort was developed based on the observation of comfort dogs
over a 5 year period in crisis response settings in schools and
communities. The comfort dogs always know what to do to help those
hurting, while most humans fail to connect. These beautiful lessons and
illustrations are incorporated throughout all programming.

Unlike other mental health programs that are theory based or encourage the
one hurting to find solutions, Inspiring Comfort teaches clear steps to
take in order to form this caring connection. In most program sessions,
participants create a personalized Comfort Plaque to be intentionally given
to someone in need of comfort, thereby creating a personal human connection
without a device (like a phone) in hand. By practicing the program’s
“Circle of Comfort” * (see graphic), a connection is required. And this
connection ends up helping both the giver and the receiver of the comfort.

There are currently programs available for elementary, middle and high
schools starting at grade 3. Programs can be used for service day projects
and activities, after school clubs or special days of learning. Later this
year a curriculum kit that includes 12 age-appropriate lessons on deep
skill development for grades 3-8 will be introduced. It will meet national
educational standards and include writing, art, and mental health
components to meet SEL and mental health requirements.

For adults, team bonding activities are available for staff development

All programs come with a detailed Facilitator’s Guide, program lessons,
activities, printable worksheets, PPT slides, and all supplies needed.

Teaching comfort awakens empathy, according to the creators of Inspiring
Comfort and, as a result, a compassionate connection is enabled and given.
Session participants are empowered to make a real difference in the lives
of others… and their own.

For more information about Inspiring Comfort visit,
or Facebook at You can also send an email
to with questions or to inquire about a “Gift a
Kit” program – an innovative program where individuals or groups can easily
donate a kit to your school or organization.

Do you have or know of an innovative mental health and wellness instruction
program or method? Let us know by emailing We’d love
to hear from you and possibly feature the program in a future issue of
Healthy Young Minds.

High School Students in Virginia Help Pass New Mental Health Education Law

Thanks to the advocacy efforts of three Albemarle County students from
Monticello High School, Virginia has become the second state in the nation
to pass a law requiring that mental health instruction is provided in
schools (New York was the first state). The legislation sailed through
the House and Senate and was signed into law by Governor Ralph Northam in
March of this year, requires that mental health be taught to ninth and
tenth grade high school students. The students, Lucas Johnson, Alexander
Moreno and Choetsow Tenzin were motivated to action by what they
experienced personally and what they observed among their peers.

They were concerned by the distress, troubling Facebook and Instagram
posts, and bullying that went unaddressed among their peers. The teens
hope to reduce the stigma that surrounds seeking help for mental health.
They also want to better equip students with skills and resources to cope
with mental health struggles. MHANYS applauds these young advocates for
taking the initiative to make a difference. Their experience is an example
to all youth that it’s never too early to get involved in a cause that you
believe in and that others can benefit from. Congratulations, Virginia!

Mental Health Education in Schools – Implementation Required July 1, 2018

On May 7, 2018 the New York State Education Board of Regents permanently
adopted proposed amendments to sections 135.1 and 135.3 of the
Commissioner’s regulations, health education. The adopted amendments to
the regulations are pursuant to legislation signed by the Governor in
September of 2016, which amended Section 804 subdivisions (1) and (6)(c) of
Article 17 of the State Education Law.

MHANYS anticipates that the New York State Education Department (SED) will
issue guidance documents and resources sometime in June. The guidance
documents and resources are informed by months of deliberation by five
workgroups of the Mental Health Advisory Council. The Advisory Council was
tasked with developing recommendations to guide the implementation of a new

The five groups are:

1. Mental Health Instruction/Resources for the Classroom (PreK-12th)

2. Multiple Dimensions of Mental Health

3. Mental Health Resources for Schools, Students, and Families

4. Supporting a Positive School Climate and Culture

5. Implementation

The groups are comprised of a wide diversity of education and mental health
professionals and representatives from a variety of interest groups.
Participants include health educators, social workers, school psychologists
and counselors, groups representing teachers, superintendents, school
boards, and state agency representatives from SED, the Office of Mental
Health (OMH), the NYS Department of Health (DOH) and the NYS Office of
Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS).

You can access more details about the implementation of the new law by
logging on to SED’s Curriculum & Instruction Resource page at:

Are Teen Mental Health Rates Rising?

Recent media coverage seems to suggest an increase in mental health
problems, particularly among youth; and parents and educators are reporting
similar concerns. Has there been an increase in the prevalence of mental
illness? Some research supports this concern identifying a primary
contributing factor as a shift in social culture that has created
disconnection and isolation.

One study suggest that the number of individuals Americans confide in and
seek support from has decreased about one third from 1985 to 2004. In
another study, it was found that the perceived emotional health of incoming
college freshman is at its lowest since 1985 with only 45.9% of females and
59.1% of males participants rated themselves “above average”. What might
explain why social supports and emotional health would be at their lowest?
Perhaps it is that people are not confiding in others about difficult
issues, ultimately internalizing problems which impacts their overall
mental health. Consequentially, individuals will not feel a sense of
belonging or interconnectedness that is typical when experiences are shared
and support is provided.

Do you observe individuals or people in groups on their mobile devices
rather than socializing with one another? We are in an era where we rely on
technology and social media to connect with each other, but at what cost?
Research suggests mobile communication during in-person conversation
interferes with the quality of the relationships and interactions.
According American Academy of Pediatrics, increases in exposure to screen
time, internet and social media has a negative influence on mental health.

In general, there are a variety of factors that influence an individual’s
mental well-being and our society is changing and constantly evolving. As
we move forward, we should be mindful of such sociocultural changes and to
question the impact it poses on the population’s overall mental health.

Did you know?

Parents’ View of Health Education in Schools: A National Perspective

Over two-thirds of parents say that traditional health topics definitely
should be covered at their child’s grade level:

– Physical activity (76%),
– Drug and alcohol abuse (75%),
– Healthy eating (71%),
– Sex education/pregnancy prevention (70%).

Most parents report that these topics are currently taught at their child’s

Other health topics that parents say schools definitely should cover:

– Basic first aid (68%),
– Emotional/mental health (67%),
– CPR/emergency life support (63%).

However, less than one-third report that these topics are currently taught.

Parents are more confident that their child’s school can:

– Provide First aid (77%),
– Assist with an asthma attack (58%),
– Assist with a mental health problem (38%).

Mental Health Association in New York State, Inc. (MHANYS)
and its network of 26 local affiliates, serve New York State by
offering innovative and effective programming that address a wide range of
mental health challenges. MHAs fight stigma by increasing mental health
knowledge in their communities and advocate for change in the mental health
system ensuring access for all New Yorkers.