Is Mandatory Mental Health Education Working in New York?

July 2019 marked one year since New York State’s mandate of mental health education among K-12 students. The mandate was the first in the country and was designed with the hope that education would create an environment of mental health awareness. The requirement recognized the fact that mental well-being is just as important as physical health. It came amongst research demonstrating an alarming increase in rates of depression, anxiety, and suicide among American teens.

Is it Working?

While it may be too soon to tell the impact this education is really having on students, school districts believe it’s helping. The quality of mental health education depends on the individual school districts. The mandate does not specify the manner in which the education should be administered and doesn’t dictate a curriculum. School districts have quite a bit of latitude when deciding the programs they put in place.

The downside of this lack of uniformity is that some programs work, and some don’t. Students in districts where the program doesn’t work are unfortunately not experiencing the full benefit of well-developed mental health education. Some school districts have developed peer mentoring and advocacy programs. Others, such as the Niagara Fallsschool district have chosen to implement mental health education by increasing extracurricular programs for students. This in stark contrast to many school districts who have simply added mental health education as a subject that is discussed in one day in health class.

The State hoped that the addition of mental health education in the school would lead to the development of an environment of support. The State envisioned peer support groups, peer advocacy, and greater mental health awareness as part of the program. It is clear that this type of education is necessary. Most mental illnesses develop during the teen years, and early intervention and treatment can lead to better outcomes. If a teen with a mental health problem is recognized early through the environment created by a mental health education program, then future issues can be properly addressed.

If you or a loved one has a mental disability and has been arrested or convicted of a crime, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side. Elizabeth Kelley specializes in representing individuals with mental disabilities. To schedule a consultation call (509) 991-7058.

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