Teaching mental health in NY classrooms

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(WTEN) – For the first year ever, mental health education is now required to be taught in New York schools.

“We want to normalize mental health, that’s the whole objective,” Glenn Liebman, of NYS Mental Health Association, said.

Classes are well underway in New York, but there is a new required topic on the syllabus this year. Mental Health. Liebman says starting the discussion is what it’s all about.

“We don’t whisper about someone with other diseases, but we do whisper about mental health and we have to change that whisper and we have to talk about it much more openly.”

A mandate was pushed through this last legislative session, making New York the first state in the country to require schools to teach about mental health in the classroom.  Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia says educators are embracing the new curriculum.

“People know the importance of the work we are all doing together. Schools are embracing the opportunity and the resources we have started to roll out with them so that they know how to support their students,” Elia said.

One way mental health is being introduced into the classroom is through social and emotional learning. For example, when a kid misbehaves, instead of giving them out of school suspension, educators will take a deeper look at what might be going on in that student’s life.

“If they’re not in school they can’t learn. We work with them so they understand in themselves how to develop those skills of resiliency and control.”

Many schools were already incorporating mental health in their classrooms and some are taking it even a step further now by hiring psychologists and social workers.

“Our kids can’t learn if they are stressed and if they don’t have emotional support.”

While the mental health education mandate does not apply to private schools yet, educators from Catholic and Jewish schools have also reached out to see how the curriculum can still be added to their classrooms.

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