New York to mandate mental health education in schools



New York state educators work diligently to ensure students understand the
inner workings of physical health; and now, by law, mental health will be
held to the same standard.

On July 1, a new law came into effect requiring all New York schools,
public and private, to teach mental health to students K-12.

This is much to the joy of Glenn Liebman, CEO of the Mental Health
Association in New York State Inc. (MHANYS).

“It all started six years ago,” he said. “There have been prominent
statistics about mental health in young people and we thought it was
important to address and take action on.”

The startling statistics that encouraged the development of the law was all
youth have a mental health issue, and moreover, there is a 10-year gap
between the development of health issues and the eventual treatment of them.

“There is a huge gap between when some of these issues like anxiety or
depression come about. These issues will usually start around age 14 but
people don’t actually seek help until around age 24; that is a huge
problem,” Mr. Liebman said. “So, what better place to start educating about
mental health than in schools, where the vast majority of youth can be

The legislation to make mental health education mandatory was passed about
two years ago, and gave MHANYS 20 months to prepare strategies and meet
with experts before the law’s official implementation.

“We worked very closely with the State Education Department. They will
oversee and enforce the law, and have an advisory committee of experts to
help with the understanding of it all,” Mr. Liebman said.

MHANYS received funding for the establishment of the Mental Health
Education Resource and Training Center, which will help schools to adhere
to the new requirement. It will provide free training and resources for the
teachers, students, parents and other mental health programs.

“We want to generate really good, meaningful discourse about mental health
in schools. We have so many resources available now for people to utilize
and learn from,” Mr. Liebman said.

With depression and suicide on the rise in recent years, the goal of this
law is to get people talking about mental health and emphasizing its
importance and normalcy.

“Something I have learned over my 25 years of experience is young people
are more open to talking about mental health issues, but there are still
walls out there. Walls that can be broken down by talking about mental
health as overall health and dissolving the stigma that mental health
issues commonly hold,” Mr. Liebman said.

Teaching mental health through elementary, middle and high school will
provide an understanding for students of all levels of maturity.

Younger grades will get a soft touch on the subject, focusing on social and
emotional learning.

Older grades will delve deeper into the gravity of the subject, providing
students means to understand signs of mental health issues, why they might
develop and ways seek help.

“It’s so important to teach basic knowledge on the matter. It will help
students be self-aware and recognize signs and symptoms and know that they
can share concerns with loved ones or trusted adults,” Mr. Liebman said.