The Importance of Mandatory Mental Health Classes In Schools
The state of New York recently passed an unprecedented law requiring that all students from elementary to high school learn about mental health. Some key points that these classes must cover include, identifying signs of mental health problems, resources for health and support, and the negative stigma that surrounds mental health. What New York State has done is not only incredible for the progression of mental health awareness in this country; it is groundbreaking and an absolute necessity. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, around 13% of children ages 8 to 15 experience a severe mental disorder as well as 21% of teenagers from 13-18. Some data also suggests that up to 50% of mental health disorders can be recognized as early as age 14. This highlights an important point, that mental disorders can manifest itself at an early age, yet because of its stigma and lack of understanding, many young people do not get the appropriate help and support that is needed. Over time, if these signs are not recognized they will only get worse and increase the impact of the disorder. The World Health Organization identifies that 1 in 3 college freshmen may suffer from some sort of mental health disorder. This indicates that most people experience disorders yet continue to carry them through childhood, and eventually through adulthood. There is great optimism that more states can follow New York’s lead and pass similar legislature, which will bring mental health to the forefront of this country’s consciousness. This year, Virginia has passed a law that requires that 9thand 10thgraders be taught mental health lessons in school. Now more than ever, mental health has become as apart of the national dialogue as politics, sports and entertainment. It is important that the momentum continues and the important work continues to be done. The fight to remove the immense stigma surrounding mental health is an essential one, and must start with the younger generations in order to make necessary changes. Teaching the youth how to recognize signs and symptoms of certain disorders and educating them will help increase the understanding of mental awareness and normalize it even more in the future. Many times, people identify “needing help” as a weakness. Society has often times isolated and ostracized people who may be suffering from mental health disorders. These mandatory classes will go a long way in the fight to break the stigma and continue conversations that are needed for the increased awareness and progression of mental health in this country. Young people will not be afraid to come forward and talk about issues that many generations who came before them have not. Already because of the widespread impact of social media, many people are coming forward and sharing their experiences and struggles with mental health, and as mandatory classes become apart of national curriculums across the country, I anticipate that this will become more of the “new normal”. In the future, not only will children learn about the arts and sciences, they will be educated on emotional wellness and the importance of mental health awareness, which will have great impact on the emotional wellness of this country.