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Your kids will now be studying mental health

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Posted at 11:03 AM, Jul 02, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-02 11:03:35-04

If you have a child in grades K-12, their curriculum will now include mental health education.  It's all part of a new law aimed at advancing the movement to expand mental health literacy among young people statewide.

"This groundbreaking law lays the path to better health for all New Yorkers," said Glenn Liebman, CEO of Mental Health Association in NYS. "While first starting in schools, we believe that ultimately this law will have a far-reaching effect for communities across New York State."

The MHANYS is now in the process of creating the School Mental Health Resource & Training Center, which will help local schools comply with the new law. The first step for the center, its new website, goes live on July 2.

By emphasizing mental health literacy, schools can prepare students with lifelong skills to understand mental health and wellness and increase their awareness of when and how to access treatment or support for themselves or others.

"Unrecognized, untreated and late-treated mental illness elevates the risk of mental health crises such as suicide and self-injury. Early treatment enhances potential for recovery and also diminishes negative coping behaviors such as substance abuse," Liebman added. "Empowering young people with knowledge will have a powerful impact in helping them protect and preserve mental health and wellness for themselves and their peers."

Approximately one in five adults in the U.S. lives with a mental illness. Additionally, about half of all chronic mental health conditions begin by age 14, half of all cases of anxiety disorders begin as early as age 8, and about 22 percent of youth aged 13-18 experience serious mental disorders in a given year, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

NYS Office of Mental Health Commissioner Dr. Ann Sullivan said, "By introducing mental health education at age appropriate levels from elementary through high school, mental health will be normalized just as physical health is, stigma will be reduced and children and parents will learn about prevention and when and how they should ask for help. 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."

New York's law is the first in the nation to require mental health instruction in schools, and many mental health professionals expect others states to follow New York's lead. Great interest has been generated across the country in modeling New York's legislation.

The new law enacts the mental health education requirement, but does not mandate a specific curriculum. That's why MHANYS is taking action to help schools implement their own mental health curricula and serve as a resource for ongoing support.