This past summer New York State issued a law that states all N.Y. schools must integrate the topic of mental health into their health classes’ curriculums.
One of the most alarming complications children, teens and young adults in the United States face today is something most people do not notice from plain sight, and that is exactly what makes it so troubling. This issue that affects so much of the nation’s youth – mental illness. While a lack of mental health may not be as visible as, for example, a broken arm or leg, its effects on an individual can be just as, if not more, pernicious. Far too often, a child or teen loses his/her life to the clutches of a severe mental disorder without any perceivable forewarning. This is why N.Y.S decided, on July 1, 2018, to make education on mental health mandatory in physical education and health courses. This will be the first state to pass such a law. “A lot of psychological disorders are not considered concerning, but they definitely can be. I think it’s wonderful that kids and teens are being made aware of these illnesses,” Namisha, a freshman and psychology major, commented.
In the N.Y.S. Assembly’s memorandum of the new law they state, “…missing from current law and often the classroom, is the recognition that mental health is as important to health and wellbeing as physical health.” This sentence has a great amount of truth to it. It is all too common for students to only be taught about the dangers of drugs and alcohol in health classes. While these are serious topics that should not be taken lightly, kids and teens should also be taught about the hazards that disorders like depression and anxiety can present to them. By discussing these topics and bringing them to light, New York schools hope to break down the stigma attached to mental illness and to show the youth that they should not be ashamed of themselves for suffering from mental disorders.
When one looks at statistics compounded over time on mental illness in relation to adolescents and younger people, it becomes quite evident why New York believed mental health to be an important topic of discussion. According to the 2016 Children’s Mental Health Report published by the Child Mind Institute, one in five U.S. children carry symptoms of mental health disorders and 50 percent of those with mental disorders begin to feel its effects before 14 years old. These disorders can very easily lead to kids and younger people not reaching their full potential in school and other aspects of their lives. Yet, many schools today still don’t have mental health counselors or teachers for mental health classes that students should be attending. “I knew people in high school who had gone to guidance counselors during whatever free time they had. I believe these students would have benefited immensely from the inclusion of a mental health class,” Johnny, a freshman and undecided major, remarked.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that only 20 percent of children with mental disorders are actually diagnosed and treated. This is why it’s so crucial to talk about mental health with younger people. Most children and teens don’t understand what they are feeling, and not every child or teen has a trained mental health professional in their life to help them realize something is wrong. The Child Mind Institute explains that young people are 10 times more likely to seek out help for their mental and emotional or substance abuse problems if they have mental health staff in their school. Shayna, a freshman and math major, added that, “Attending therapy or seeking help for mental illness is a lot more common than some people may think, so hopefully these classes will bring awareness to that.”
By deciding to incorporate mental health classes into every school’s health courses, N.Y.S. is giving visibility to those suffering from mental disorders. These classes will hopefully show kids and teens that they are not alone, no matter what they are going through, and that they can seek help to overcome their internal struggles and live happy and fulfilling lives.