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Old 10-06-2016, 03:31 AM
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Soapbox Governor Signs Historic Education Bill to Teach Mental Health to Youth

October 3, 2016Contact: Glenn Liebman, CEO (cell 518-360-7916) (office
518-434-0439) John Richter, Director of Public Policy (office
518-434-0439) Governor Signs Historic Education Bill to Teach
Mental Health to Youth Middle schools and high schools have been teaching
about various health topics since the 1970s. The current State Education
Law requires schools to provide instruction in topics such as the use and
misuse of alcohol, tobacco, and substances and the early detection of
cancer. Now, under new legislation signed by Governor Cuomo, mental
health instruction will be added to the list of critical health issues
that youth will learn about. The new legislation, sponsored by
Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan (D-Queens) and Senator Carl Marcellino
(R-Nassau), passed with near unanimous support in the State Legislature.
“This legislation represents a policy goal that the Mental Health
Association in New York State, Inc. (MHANYS) has advocated for over the
past five years” according to MHANYS’ CEO Glenn Liebman. “We are
celebrating the passage of this vital legislation on behalf of young
people in New York and their families. By ensuring that young people are
educated about mental health, we increase the likelihood that they will be
able to recognize signs in themselves and others that indicate when help
is needed and how to get help,” Liebman said. Some 20 percent of
Americans will be diagnosed with a mental illness at some point in their
lives, and about half of them will begin experiencing symptoms as early as
14 years of age. Too often, however, these signs are missed and young
people go without treatment for years, often suffering academically,
abusing alcohol and drugs, getting into legal trouble, and too often,
tragically losing their lives to suicide. In the same way that people can
be taught to recognize the early signs and symptoms of other illnesses and
get the help they need, the same can be taught about mental illness
according to proponents of the new law. John Richter, Director of Public
Policy at MHANYS, commented that “we possess the knowledge and tools
necessary to increase awareness in young people about mental health, how
to recognize when someone’s in distress or crisis and how to get help.
Why in the world would we withhold this lifesaving information from our
youth?” In fairness, some schools have already taken the initiative to
teach about mental health and suicide prevention, but these efforts have
not been consistent across the state and many schools are unsure about
their role and the appropriateness of teaching this subject matter. The
new law will settle any ambiguity along these lines. Advocates and many
experts believe that teaching the facts about mental health and openly
discussing the issues with students will lessen the stigma surrounding
mental illnesses. Young people and their families would feel more
comfortable seeking help, academic performance for all students would be
enhanced, and ultimately, lives can be saved. “This was a true grassroots
effort driven by our members, thousands of people in the community and
many of our colleague organizations,” according to Liebman. The new law
becomes effective in July 2018. Schools will have until September of the
same year when school resumes after the summer break to have curriculums
and teachers in place ready to begin teaching about mental health. Mental
Health Association in New York State, Inc. (MHANYS) is a not-for-profit
organization comprised of 26 affiliates in 52 counties throughout New York
State. The mission of MHANYS is to promote mental health and recovery,
eliminate discrimination, and raise public awareness with education and
support.
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