By: Ibtasam Elmaliki

Photo By: Ibtasam Elmaliki

 

On July 1, 2018 New York became the first state to enact a law that requires all public schools to incorporate mental health into their health curriculum. The law took effect in September once the school year started. As of now, there are no strict guidelines on what curriculum has to be taught to students; schools are given the freedom to choose what they want to include in their mental health classes.

However, the New York State Office of Mental Association of New York State (MHANYS) in 2017 posted a public PDF document on concepts that should be addressed to students. Some of these concepts include seeing mental health as part of wellness and self-care, as well as ways to identify signs of mental health problems, negative stigma of mental illnesses, and where to seek appropriate resources to gain support and help.

Statistics prove that mental health education is not only highly needed but is long overdue. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human services (HHS), 29% of high school students show symptoms of depression. Furthermore, the Centers of Disease Control (CDC) reported rates of suicide in New York are increasing at an alarming rate. Between the year 1999 and 2016 the suicide rate has increased by nearly 30%.

Breona Couloote, a junior and psychology major, greatly values the importance of mental health awareness and is happy to see New York’s new law. “Learning about mental health can help destigmatize certain illnesses. Many people go untreated for their mental illness due to negative stereotypes and judgement from others,” said Cuoloote. “If we can teach individuals of one’s mental hygiene, it can end up saving someone’s life one day.”

Students of the High School for Math, Science and Engineering, next door to City College, are also happy to see mental health education take place. Jack Moskowitz, a sophomore in high school, feels that it is a must in an academic setting. “Mental health is key to feeling good. If something is affecting you mentally or socially, it effects your grades. Overcoming mental health is important. If you don’t have good mental health, you’re just going to tell yourself what’s the point and do bad on the next test,” said Moskowitz. “A specialized high school environment especially requires more counseling, there’s more work and more stress. A group setting like a classroom and seeing you’re not alone is needed,” he said.

Charlotte, a freshman, has similar feelings. “It’s needed, especially in high school when there’s a lot of new pressures and you’re meeting lots of new people,” Charlotte said. “It’s important for people to keep track of how they’re doing mentally, inside, instead of what’s going on around them because it will help them with their grades and it’s good for them to focus on themselves as well,” she explained.

Charlotte hopes to see other states follow New York’s steps. “Definitely, other states should follow New York. New York is not the only one with a very strong school program, so other states should care for their students,” Charlotte said. “They should make sure their students are good, not just that they’re putting out good grades but that their students are happy being at school as well,” she shared.

Virginia is the only other state implementing a mental health curriculum, however only to their ninth and tenth graders. Hopefully other states follow suit and make mental health education a priority in their schools as well.

 

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