By Rashika Jaipuriar SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC News) – School may be in session for the year, but New York schools are still catching up on summer homework.
The state’s latest legislative changes went into effect on July 1, and now K-12 public schools are required to incorporate mental health education in their health curriculums. This makes New York the first state in the country with such a mandate.
This is a positive step in destigmatizing discussions about mental health, according to Upstate New York native Ellen Greene. Her school district in Massena did not have any formal mental education,
“It was more just like, ‘Don’t talk about your feelings, let’s go play football,’” Greene said.
Greene, who is now a senior at Syracuse University, said incorporating mental health in the curriculum would have been helpful for the community.
“Schools that need it the most aren’t properly funded (and) that is kind of upsetting, and it definitely has effects in the community,” Greene said, “Also in my town especially, the opioid epidemic is really huge and that ties in with mental health and drug abuse. So it’s just really important topics…and we just kind of miss out on that.”
While some schools are starting from scratch, other districts are working to improve the systems they already have in place–in Syracuse, for example.
The Syracuse City School District already does offer mental health education, but the district is currently reviewing the new mandate to make changes to the current curriculum, according to SCSD Communications.
For SCSD mom Samantha Pierce, the state mandate is good formal step, but there’s still something missing.
“It’s great that there’s that top level recognition of the importance of mental health education, and having those resources available to students and teachers and families” Pierce said. “The website that they rolled out as a support for this mandate-that’s a great resource to have available…But I think the mandate and the legislation would have a lot more teeth if it came with funding to support it.”
Although the state does not have a specific curriculum that schools need to follow, it is providing resources and support for educators.
Through grant funding, the state is supporting a School Mental Health Resource and Training Center, an online platform with lesson plans and information to help schools implement the new mandate.
The online platform serves a few purposes, according to the Mental Health Association in New York State (MHANYS) :
- To provide assistance and guidance through an online platform
- To provide a hotline for school districts and a team of experts in education and mental health
- To offer mental health training for staff, help schools establish community partnerships to meet the mental health needs
The mental health education is the latest requirement for New York educators. Schools are also required to educate kids on two other health topics:
- Alcohol, drug and tobacco abuse
- Prevention and detection of certain cancers