Since the July 1 implementation date of the Mental Health Education in
Schools law, there have been numerous articles, television and radio
interview from across New York State and the country highlighting the new
legislation. A few recent examples include stories in the Buffalo News and
the Huffington Post. If you want access to more media stories and
interviews, log on to MHANYS twitter account at @MHAacrossNYSAlso, if you
have any questions about the news law, please log onto our website at
Mental health education now required in New York schools
By Jay Rey, Buffalo News | Published Tue, Jul 3, 2018 | Updated Tue, Jul 3, 2018
All elementary, middle and high schools across New York State now will be
required to teach about mental health, under a new law that took effect
Billed as the first of its kind in the nation, the legislation was signed
into law in 2016, after years of lobbying by the Mental Health Association
in New York State.
“If you look at the statistics about mental health-related issues, it
creates a very compelling case as to why this is so important,” said Glenn
Liebman, chief executive officer of the nonprofit.
Liebman cited these statistics from the National Institute of Mental Health:
– About one in five adults in the U.S. lives with a mental illness.
– Roughly half of chronic mental health conditions start by age 14.
– Half of anxiety disorders begin as early as 8.
– More than one-fifth of teenagers age 13 to 18 experience serious
mental illness each year.
Education in schools can provide students with the lifelong skills needed
to understand mental health and when to seek help for themselves or others,
Liebman said. Early treatment can increase the potential for recovery.
But unrecognized and untreated, he said, mental illness raises the risk of
suicide and self-injury, as well as negative coping behaviors, like
“It traditionally takes about 10 years between onset of mental health
issues and before someone seeks treatment,” Liebman said. “One of the
reasons we thought the law was so important was to reduce that gap.”
The goal is also to “normalize” mental health and reduce its stigma among
children and parents.
“Through education, we can change people’s perception of mental illness and
encourage future generations to ask for help if they’re feeling depressed
or anxious, as easily as they ask for help for an injured leg or a sore
throat,” Ann Sullivan, commissioner for the state Office of Mental Health,
said in a prepared statement.
The mental health law took effect July 1.
Anecdotally, Liebman said, some schools have been doing a good job teaching
about mental health for years, while in others there’s little mention of
depression, anxiety or suicide.
While the law requires schools to provide mental health education, it does
not mandate a specific curriculum. That’s why the Mental Health Association
in New York State, which focuses on mental health advocacy and programming,
is preparing to launch a resource and training center to help schools
prepare for the upcoming school year.
Instruction would be included as part of any existing classroom teaching on
physical health. In the middle and high schools, it would be taught by
New York, Virginia Become First States To Mandate Mental Health Education
By Michelle Lou, Huffington Post, 07/02/2018 06:04 pm ET
“It’s never too early to have folks being educated,” one advocate said.
New York and Virginia are the first states to enact laws that require
schools to include mental health education in their curriculums.
The New York legislation, which was written in 2015 and enacted on Sunday,
directs all K-12 classrooms to get instruction about mental health as part
of the overall health curriculum. Virginia’s law, which is set to take
effect this fall, is less wide-reaching, requiring mental health education
for the first two years of high school.
The New York law
does not specify an additional curriculum but clarifies that mental health
falls under the purview of the state’s overall health curriculum.
“By ensuring that young people learn about mental health, we increase the
likelihood that they will be able to more effectively recognize signs in
themselves and others, including family members, and get the right help,”
the New York law reads, adding that the new education requirements seek to
open up dialogue about mental health and combat the stigma around the topic.
Glenn Liebman, CEO of the Mental Health Association in New York State, one
of the lead groups that lobbied for the law, said, “We didn’t fight for
specific curriculum because we recognize that what is taught in one part of
the state might not be relevant in another part of the state.” The
association developed nine core concepts
that should be incorporated into the mental health curriculum, including
identifying appropriate professionals and services, and the “relationship
between mental health, substance abuse and other negative coping behaviors.”
The Virginia law
<lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?181+ful+SB953ER> says that
the state’s board of education will collaborate with mental health experts
to update education standards.
“Such health instruction shall incorporate standards that recognize the
multiple dimensions of health by including mental health and the
relationship of physical and mental health so as to enhance student
understanding, attitudes, and behavior that promote health, well-being, and
human dignity,” the law reads.
More than 90 percent of youth who die by suicide suffer from depression or
another diagnosable and treatable mental illness, and students who have
mental illnesses are less likely to succeed in school, according to the New
In 2017, 11.01 percent of youth ages 12 to 17 reported experiencing at
least one major depressive episode that year, according to Mental Health
For people 10 to 24 years old, suicide is a leading cause of death, according
to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
The Virginia law was passed after state Sen. R. Creigh Deeds
(D-Charlottesville) saw that three high school students
researched, developed and presented the proposed legislation, which struck
close to home for the legislator, who had lost his son to suicide in 2013.
He introduced it in the Virginia General Assembly earlier this year, and
the legislation was signed by Gov. Ralph Northam in March.
Debbie Plotnick, vice president for mental health and systems advocacy at
Mental Health America, said that the laws are a major step forward in
addressing mental health. She said she hopes other states will follow suit.
“We think it is essential that mental health not be something that is
spoken about in whispers but is something that is part of overall health,
both practice and education,” Plotnick said. “Major mental health
conditions are almost always manifest in, if not childhood, certainly by
Young children also experience mental health conditions, though they don’t
always know how to speak about it.
Regarding the Virginia law, Plotnick said, “It’s never too early to have
folks being educated.”
Glenn Liebman, CEO
Mental Health Association in New York State, Inc.