ROCHESTER, N.Y. — This year elementary, middle and high schools in New York State will be required to include mental health and wellness in their education curriculum.
According to the Mental Health Association in New York State, one in five adults in the U.S. are living with a mental illness, with half of those chronic conditions beginning by age 14. That's why MHANYS began a five- year campaign to ensure that students in New York State receive mental health and wellness education.
"They're exposed to trauma, they're exposed to bullying, they're exposed to all these things and when they have different feelings coming up and things happening," said Melanie Funchess with the Mental Health Association of Rochester/Monroe County. "Because we don't have these conversations, our children don't have the language and don't have the knowledge of how to process what they're feeling and know how to reach out."
Signed by Governor Cuomo in 2016, the first-in-the-nation law took effect on July 1. The law enacts the requirement for mental health education but not a specific curriculum.
Locally, the Mental Health Association is working with districts to determine how to implement the guidelines.
"We know that schools cannot do this alone, so we at the Mental Health Association here are working with MHANYS to offer the technical assistance to districts to give them what they need," Funchess said.
With half of anxiety disorders setting in as early as 8 years old, MHANYS felt it important to implement education from kindergarten to 12th grade.
"Of course you want to speak language that students understand, that they can be familiar with. Younger grades, sort of like, 'what are the range of feelings? How do you express those feelings?'" said Ruth Turner with the Rochester City School District.