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New York and Virginia Pave the Way with Mental Health Education Laws

For years, most states have mandated that schools provide physical health education. This year, New York and Virginia will be the first two states to pass laws that require mental health education, too. Mental health education will be integrated into the curriculum from kindergarten through 12th grade in New York, and from ninth to 10th grade in Virginia. (Many Recommend Teaching Mental Health in Schools. Now Two States Will Require It, Pew, June 15, 2018).

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the suicide rate in the U.S. has increased dramatically in the past 20 years. Adolescents and teens are no exception. According to a study conducted at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, the number of youths who experience a major depression rose 40 percent between 2005 and 2014. Similarly, rates of attempted and completed suicides have risen among girls and boys.

Early intervention is key to effectively improving mental health and preventing suicide. The National Alliance on Mental Illness reports that half of lifetime mental health issues set in before age 14, and on average, people wait 10 years before getting treatment. New York and Virginia government officials and advocates hope that by providing mental health education they can help catch symptoms early on, get students the help they need and prevent long-term illnesses.

New York and Virginia are setting examples for other states to write similar bills. But these laws are part of a greater movement to raise awareness about the importance of mental health education.

Across the country, states and cities are implementing education programs like Mental Health First Aid to train people to recognize and respond to signs of mental illness. As more states adopt mental health curricula, you can also take action by getting trained in Mental Health First Aid. In addition to an overview of mental health conditions like depression, anxiety and addictions, you will learn an action plan of how to help those in crisis. Join the movement and register for a course today.