New York: First state to require mental health to be part of school curriculum

June 24, 2018, Oswego, NY WRVO Public Radio: First in the nation: New York requires mental health information in curriculum ...In an effort to make more students aware of those warning signs, Green donated $10,000 to the Baldwinsville School District, where she relocated after Eric's death, to fund mental health training and programs for staff and students. It's training that all students in the state from the elementary level to high school will soon be exposed to. This fall, New York will become the first state in the nation to require mental health information in school curriculum. The goal is to introduce students to what mental health is, how they can cope with it and where to seek help. "For students, it goes back to identification of feelings and emotions, regulation of those feelings and emotions and building empathy and understanding of those with differences," said Penny Williams, the Youth Development Director for Onondaga-Cortland-Madison BOCES, which is designing the curriculum for school districts in central New York. New York state recommends schools broach the subject in health class, but Williams says the information can be addressed in any course. And she says equally important to equipping students with the skills to handle mental health problems is preparing staff to recognize those who are struggling…. That model of getting staff to be advocates is currently in use at West Genesee School District in Camillus. There, all school staff -- including the custodians and food service workers -- have been trained to watch after the students in group settings (like at lunch time) for any signs that they may be distressed. Superintendent Chris Brown says they're not only trying to encourage more connections between students and teachers, but students as well. "With the number of broken homes that we have nowadays or the number of homes that are together but mom and dad have four jobs, I think the biggest thing is relationship building," Brown said. "I just don't think you can underestimate the power of building a relationship with a child." Michelle Bartholomew Green says New York's new law is a step in the right direction, and she's hopeful that it can prevent other children from resorting to suicide. "We do have an obligation, I think, to teach our kids how to cope," Green said. "I think that’s just as important as reading, writing and arithmetic."