Central New York, Community, Education, Government, Health, Syracuse

New Mental Health Education Mandate may be Neglecting key Issues

Some students use social media to connect with others who are experiencing anxiety, depression, or thoughts of suicide. © 2018 Natalie Maier

Press play to learn why some people think the new mandate fails to address major issues contributing to students’ poor mental health. 

Audio Transcript: Mental Health Mandate Misses the Mark

By Natalie Maier SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC News) – As of July 1, 2018, New York State public schools are required to implement mental health education in physical and health education classes. The new mandate comes amid nationwide concerns about mental health.

New York and Virginia are the first two states to pass legislation addressing mental health education in schools. However, some are concerned that the legislation fails to address larger issues like social media, publicized high-profile suicides, and gun control.

In February, after the deadly shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, an investigation revealed a history of red flags about the shooter’s mental health.

In June, the deaths of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain brought increased conversation about suicide.

The new mandate by New York State does not specifically address social media, suicide rates, or the increase in gun violence in schools. Some people feel that, by neglecting these issues, the legislation may not be effective.

“It seems like they’re putting a band-aid on a much larger problem,” said Elizabeth Hughes, a social worker at Liverpool High School. Hughes has been at the high school for 17 years, and she said there is a clear correlation between the use of social media and rates of anxiety, depression, and suicide.

Hughes also said she has concerns about the apparent sensationalizing of suicide.

“When things like this are publicized, it does cause a contagion effect. So other students who maybe weren’t thinking about suicide are now thinking about it. I see it on social media, I see it in ‘13 Reasons Why,’ I see it with celebrities,” she said.

The mandate does not address specific factors contributing to students’ poor mental health. Schools will begin implementing additional mental health education, however they see fit, in the fall.