New York Becomes First State To Require Mental Health Education In Schools

The law goes into effect July 1.

In school, kids are taught hygiene, nutrition, physical activity, and the importance of staying drug and alcohol-free, but many don't learn about the role mental health plays in their overall well-being. 

"I think my students can identify when they're feeling stress or anxiety or something else, but I don't think they understand how to cope with it," health teacher Dustin Verga told Times Union. "They don't know that, just like you might need to rest if you're sick with the flu, you might need to take care of yourself if you're not feeling right mentally."

But in New York, that's all about to change — and for good reason. 

Starting July 1, New York will become the first state to enact legislation requiring — not just encouraging — all elementary, middle, and high schools to incorporate mental health education into their curriculum. The updated curriculum will cover a wide range of areas and will help to increase the likelihood that students recognize signs of mental illness in themselves and others. They'll learn when and how to seek help.

Mental illness is a global issue. "Around 450 million people currently suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide," according to the World Health Organization. One in four people around the world will be affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives.

In the United States, approximately one in five youth ages 13–18 (21.4 percent) experiences a severe mental disorder at some point during their life, according to the National Alliance on Mental Health. For children ages 8–15, the estimate is 13 percent. 

"In spite of the magnitude of the problem, lack of awareness and entrenched stigma keep the majority of these young people from getting help. Children and adolescents with psychiatric illness are at risk for academic failure, substance abuse, and a clash with the juvenile justice system — all of which come at a tremendous cost to them, their families, and the community," according to the Child Mind Institute.  

Thanks to New York legislators, kids in New York will be better equipped to recognize and address mental health issues. Hopefully other states will follow suit. 

Cover image via Rawpixel.com / Shutterstock.com

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