Mental health now required to be part of curriculum in New York State schools

New York News

New York State now requires that all school districts incorporate mental health into their curriculum. Starting this fall, kids K-12 have added the subject to their list. Onondaga-Cortland-Madison Counties BOCES has been a leader in helping local districts put the program into practice.

“It’s frightening and we’re reaching a critical point where we need to do something. Uhm, that this can’t be something that we’re pushing off to the side and hoping that kids learn on their own,” said Kristen Purcell, Assistant Coordinator Innovative Teaching & Learning at OCM BOCES.

Students are required to learn about not only mental illness but also having positive relationships and learning self-management and resource management. 

“Giving kids that toolbox of how to regulate their own emotions, how to build resiliency, and how to practice self-care so they know what to do when there’s a problem that’s a little too big for them to handle,” Purcell said. 

Older students have a more complicated agenda–including knowing the signs of depression. However, for kindergartners, it’s less advanced.

“A mental health education in kindergarten might look like a teacher sitting with a circle of five and six-year-olds talking about feelings and emotions and what it feels like, uhm, when you’re upset,” Purcell said.

Though learning starts in the classroom, Purcell hopes students carry these lessons with them long after the dismissal bell rings.

“It really helps them later on when they’re dealing with even bigger feelings and even bigger emotions that could cause some dangerous behaviors,” Purcell said.

It’s important to note that though the law went into place this fall, many schools are still getting on board with the curriculum. 

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