New York Schools First to Require Mental Health

By Free Radical

New York is the first state to require a mental health curriculum in its k-12 grades.

New York is the first state to require a mental health curriculum in its k-12 grades.

Growing up many of us either dreaded or relished the opportunity to take physical education classes while in school. This mandatory curriculum came after decades of advocacy stressing the need for children to have healthy bodies. Starting in the fall, students in New York schools will also be required to take courses on mental health. This makes New York the first state to make mental wellness a mandatory component of its curriculum.

Though still stigmatized, the importance of mental health has become more accepted in the general public in recent years. The rise of highly publicized bullying incidents, suicides, and school shootings have increased awareness of the subject.

A report from the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry found that of 10,123 students aged 13-18 who were surveyed, 22.2 percent had serious mental illness.

Some observers suggest that New York’s initiative is also important because often adults are the ones seeking mental health support. Also, more economically secure families with the means to pay for health care are more likely to seek treatment. With New York’s mandatory law, children from various economic backgrounds now have access to help.

Individual districts will be given the discretion to design their mental health curriculum as they see fit. However, the New York State Mental Health Education Advisory Council will provide resources and advisement to schools seeking help. The group advocates that all curriculum will include the belief that mental health is an essential part of wellness, ways to identify mental health problems, erasing the negative stigma towards mental illness, and an awareness of where to find help.

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