New York schools now teach mental health lessons

All public school students in New York State will notice a new entry in their list of subjects: mental health. A law went into effect this school year requiring that mental health be a part of health education classes.

"So that every youth between the ages of kindergarten and 12th grade could understand more about mental health and really understand that mental health is a part of health," Education Department Associate Commissioner Renee Rider said. "And so that we can try to decrease the stigma that comes along with mental health."

The mandate comes as intentional self-harm remains among the Top-10 causes of death in the United States, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2016, suicide was the second-leading cause of death for Americans between the ages of 10 and 34.

"It is now to bring to the youth more information, more knowledge so they understand what it means and they can understand themselves and they can understand others," Rider said. "And really try to provide that kind of support and get the help and needs met of each and every youth and those around them."

Dr. Nava Silton, a Manhattan psychologist, said she thinks the state is doing the right thing. He said that getting kids to discuss the subject is crucial, especially when it comes to boys, as they are less inclined to discuss their feelings than girls typically are.

"It's important for men to have an opportunity to speak about emotions and to recognize the importance of speaking about emotions," Silton said. "And recognize that's a good thing to be able to do and not something that's reserved just for women and just for girls."

Right now, New York is the first state requiring that mental health is included in health education classes. Virginia appears to be set to implement a similar mandate.

Rider said she hopes other states will follow New York's lead.

"Some people say the feds should come out with a requirement like we did in New York State and maybe that will happen," Rider said. "I know that we're taking care of New York right now and we'll be happy to help with any resources to get it to make it happen in any other state across the nation as well."