In 2016, Governor Cuomo signed into law a bill that requires schools to provide mental health instruction as part of K-12 health education. Below are several resources developed by the Mental Health Association in New York State, Inc. (MHANYS) outlining the legislative history and intent, as well as recommendations for implementing the law, including content for developing curriculum.
To help schools prepare for implementation of the law, MHANYS partnered with the State Education Department and the NYS Office of Mental Health to form the New York State Mental Health Advisory Council. The Advisory Council includes various education and behavioral health stakeholders.
The School Mental Health Resource and Training Center is committed to supporting the efforts of the Advisory Council, including the recommendations and guidance set forth by this group of dedicated and passionate stakeholders.
The School Mental Health Resource and Training Center has developed an assessment guide for educators, administrators, and student support services staff to evaluate existing curriculum content in health and other subject areas, as well as building and district-wide initiatives that promote student mental health and wellness.
This guide was created for schools to use in its entirety or by selecting individual sections to best meet the needs of the district. The guide is best viewed online as it contains hyperlinks to “working” documents. The documents can be downloaded and printed, or downloaded and shared via a collaborative workspace to support multiple users.
Use this worksheet to facilitate a team discussion about current practices and policies promoting mental health and wellness in your school:
The School Mental Health Resource and Training Center has outlined recommendations for schools to consider when identifying and/or developing mental health curriculum.
All students, as well as families/caregivers and school staff, will benefit from an understanding of key concepts in mental health and wellness, and the development of life-long skills and resources that transcend the young person’s present role as a student. As schools develop a plan to educate youth, they should also consider:
Schools are encouraged to view social-emotional learning as a “framework”, not solely the implementation of an SEL program. NYSED has developed benchmarks and guidance to support the development of SEL core competencies; view graphic of competencies and sequential skills. Additionally, the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL) is a great resource for schools. CASEL’s program guides (elementary and secondary ) are a great resource for identifying evidence-based SEL programs.
Mental health literacy includes concepts such:
Mental health education should extend beyond those concepts to include an understanding of mental health as a continuum and the relationship between mental health and physical health. A comprehensive approach to mental health education will help to reduce stigma and promote a culture and climate of wellness.
Mental Health Education should be collaborative and build on existing efforts. It is recommended that schools follow these steps:
While some programs offer “assembly” style instruction, it is preferable to engage students in lessons on mental health literacy in small groups or in the classroom setting to support safety and learning. Include school support personnel whenever possible, such as School Social Workers and School Counselors.
Mental health experts, advocates and community providers can help deliver mental health instruction. In addition, recipients of mental health services are a valuable resource for sharing stories of lived experience with mental health challenges and recovery. These community partners can also educate school personnel delivering mental health instruction to ensure they have adequate knowledge, education and training.