NY Gov. Cuomo Signs Law Mandating Mental Health Education In Middle And High Schools

By Victoria Kim 10/10/16

The curriculum is intended to help students recognize the signs of mental health issues and to give them confidence to seek help.

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NY Gov. Cuomo Signs Law Mandating Mental Health Education In Middle And High schools

Starting in 2018, mental health will be taught in all middle and high school health classes throughout New York state.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation last Monday adding mental health to the standard health curriculum, which already requires drug, alcohol, and tobacco education as well as cancer prevention and detection. 

Struggles with mental health can make it harder for a student to learn. Every year, up to 1 in 5 kids in the U.S. shows signs or symptoms of a mental health disorder, but nearly 80% won’t receive help for it. In an August report, NPR called this a “silent epidemic.” 

Some school districts already teach students about mental health and have been doing so for years, like the Cobleskill-Richmondville Central School District, which is about one hour away from Albany. 

“It can be a real barrier for students, sometimes affecting on-time graduation,” Carl Mummenthey, the superintendent of the Cobleskill-Richmondville Central School District, told The Daily Star. “So I’m glad this was passed. Anything we can do to help highlight the signs and symptoms and direct students to the right services will ultimately help them be successful in the long run.”

The new curriculum is intended to help students recognize the signs of mental health issues in themselves or in others, and to give them the confidence and resources to seek help.

The NPR report "A Silent Epidemic: The Mental Health Crisis In Our Schools" outlines the fundamental issues that make addressing students’ mental health quite challenging. Though teachers, counselors, and other school staff are in a prime position to spot a struggling student, they either have little mental health training or lack the time or resources to seek help for the student.

Mental health advocates like Glenn Liebman of the Mental Health Association in New York State (MHANYS) say the new law will help fill a massive gap in a teen’s development where mental health issues tend to be ignored.

“The average age of onset of a mental illness for 50% of the population is 14. And for anxiety disorders, even younger, 11. Until most of those people actually seek services—10 years,” Liebman told TWC News. “So what happens during this 10-year gap? Kids are dropping out of school, kids are ending up in the juvenile justice system, kids might be homeless.”

MHANYS is also working on new legislation for next year that will provide teachers, not just health teachers, with basic mental health education.

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr

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