Two excellent stories about MHANYS Mental Health Matters Day. One is a link from Univision New York and the other is a piece in the Lockport Journal by Joe Mahoney, featuring a young man from our Legislative Day who had the courage to come forward and share his story.
The articles continues to provide the rational for fully funding the School Mental Health Resource and Training Center. We are very appreciative that the Assembly added $500,000 in their budget for the Center. This is in addition to the $500,000 in the Executive Budget.
MAHONEY: Kids have mental health needs — and they’re growing
4 hrs ago
ALBANY — Anthony Zeledon says his life was altered by emotional trauma after learning his cousin had been shot to death.
“It really messed me up,” said Anthony, a 17-year-old senior at Cairo-Durham High School in upstate Greene County. “Some people think mental problems are something you’re born with. But it’s not true. It can happen to anyone.”
Anthony said he and his cousin, Tyrone Osorio, had been as close as brothers. “He kept me safe,” said Anthony, noting his own father helped raise Tyrone.
Anthony’s grief evolved into feelings of guilt that he had not spent more time with Tyrone and profound depression over the irreversibility of death. Fourteen months after the killing, he still has bouts of anxiousness. At times, he finds it difficult to concentrate.
Anthony, who hopes to become an actor, spoke to me after he made the brave decision to tell his story at a rally calling for greater state support of mental health programs.
Last year, as part of trail-blazing legislation pushed by the Mental Health Association of New York State, New York became the first state to require schools to provide instruction in mental health. To help schools comply with the mandate, the association lobbied for state funding for a resource and training center to help guide administrators and teachers.
Now, advocates are asking lawmakers and Gov. Andrew Cuomo to provide $1 million to keep the center operational in the year ahead. They estimate the added money works out to about 33 cents per student.
The funding push comes against the backdrop of a national debate over the role of mental health in the safety net for schools.
Some schools have boosted spending on metal detectors, surveillance systems and active shooter insurance. Many politicians have been generous in offering prayers to the families of children slain in violent rampages. But funding needs remain for mental health programs geared to helping children coping with chaotic family lives, bullying and the devastation caused by sexual abuse and drug and alcohol addiction.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, half of all mental health conditions begin by age 14, and 75 percent of such illnesses develop by age 24. The group says the best way to improve outcomes for patients is through early engagement with them.
National research points out the needs are tremendous. A February survey by the Pew Research Center determined that depression and anxiety are rising among teenagers, and some 70 percent acknowledge that mental disorders have become major problems at their schools.
When such illnesses are left unaddressed, the results can be tragic, said Glenn Liebman, director of the Mental Health Association of New York State. He said the resource center can assist educators and administrators in being more effective in responding to the struggles of students, and it has assisted scores of schools in less than a year.
One of the proponents for funding the resource center is Karen Drossel, a school social worker at the Cairo-Durham district and its crisis coordinator. For several years, she has brought students to what is billed as the Mental Health Matters Legislation Day so they can get a close-up of how the legislative process works.
At this year’s event, Drossel got a shout-out at the rally. It came when the bullhorn was handed to Anthony Zeledon, a teenager who believes that those coping with trauma should not have to bear a stigma.
“Mrs. Drossel has really been there for me every time I needed her,” Anthony was saying after the rally ended. “She has been a shoulder to cry on. I found out last year how one thing can happen suddenly and change your life forever. It can happen in an instant.”
Joe Mahoney covers the New York Statehouse for CNHI’s newspapers and websites. Reach him at email@example.com