Schools To Integrate Mental Health Into 2018-19 Curriculum
Beginning next year, elementary, middle and high schools in the state will
be required to include mental health education in the health curriculum.
A recent report from the Mental Health Association of New York State
detailed the reasoning for the push for mental health awareness and the
history of this requirement.
Ben Drake, director of athletics, physical education and health at
Jamestown High School, weighed in on the report and the importance of
teaching mental health to students.
“This certainly is an important issue that needs to be taught in
schools,” Drake said. “A look at the numbers is staggering.”
The MHANYS said the average age of early signs of mental illness is 14,
while the age that individuals seek help is 24. Also, 8 percent of students
nationwide have attempted suicide in the past six months and 60 percent of
high school students who have a mental illness do not graduate from high
According to a press release from the Mental Health Association in New York
State, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the law last year.
“We’re thankful to the New York State Legislature and Governor for making
this new requirement a reality,” said MHANYS CEO Glenn Liebman at the
time, “and we’re committed to preserving the legislative intent of the law
throughout the implementation process.”
According to the New York State Education Department, the current
curriculum requires students to have an understanding of the natural
standards. Natural standards include: physical activity and nutrition,
HIV/AIDS, sexual risk family life/sexual health, tobacco alcohol and other
drugs, unintentional injury violence prevention, and other required health
While the law will make mental health more of a priority in the classroom,
mental health is already mentioned in the category “other required health
areas” multiple times in the guidelines for the health science curriculum.
“As a general rule, many schools throughout New York state are not
teaching students about mental health even though the regulatory definition
recognizes it as part of health education,” stated the Mental Health
Association of New York State.
While the health curriculum guide includes a spot for mental health, the
Mental Health Association of New York State report said many schools are
not teaching mental health.
This is not the case in Jamestown schools. Drake said mental health is the
first subject in the health curriculum.
“Actually, emotional and mental health is already a large part of our
health curriculum,” Drake said. “I would say up to about 20 percent of
our curriculum is already devoted to this. It is also the first unit that
we teach in our health classes at JHS”
Beginning July 1, 2018, schools will have to integrate mental health as one
of those natural standards for the 2018-19 school year.
While Drake is awaiting more details from NYSED, he does not anticipate any
“I am sure that there will be more guidance in the coming months, but I
feel like it is already an important part of our curriculum,” Drake said.“Our
teachers are very good at teaching our students to recognize signs and
symptoms of mental illness and then where to get help and how to access
resources in our school and community.”