New York Just Became the First State to Mandate Mental Health Classes for Kids

A new subject will be part of the curriculum in all New York classrooms this school year. A law that just went into effect mandates mental health classes for kids throughout the state, for children as young as three years old. Read on to learn more about this groundbreaking education initiative.

Beginning this fall, all New York students in elementary, middle and high schools will learn about mental health as part of their health and physical education classes. How the subject is incorporated into lesson plans is up to each individual school, but the overall focus remains the same: to help kids understand more about mental wellness and to learn how to seek help when needed.

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Photo: Element5 Digital via Unsplash

The New York State Mental Health Education Advisory Council was established in August 2017 to create guidelines for schools and teachers on how to incorporate these lessons into their traditional health curriculum. The subjects that must be covered under these guidelines include identifying signs of mental health problems, understanding that mental wellness is part of self care and learning about resources for help and support.

Understanding mental health issues and eradicating the negative stigma that often makes the topic difficult to discuss can help kids develop the skills they need to care for their own mental well-being as they grow older. It can also help them spot and identify a friend or family member who might be struggling with issues and give them the tools to offer assistance.

“When young people learn about mental health and that it is an important aspect of overall health and well-being, the likelihood increases they will be able to effectively recognize signs and symptoms in themselves and others and will know where to turn for help – and it will decrease the stigma that attaches to help-seeking,”state education commissioner, MaryEllen Elia told NBC News.

With research showing that half of mental illnesses begin by age 14, this new curriculum could have a big impact. Hopefully more states will follow suit. Virginia recently passed similar legislation requiring mental health education for ninth and tenth grade students.

—Shahrzad Warkentin

Featured photo: Element5 Digital via Unsplash




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