The Empire State of Mind

Chevmonay Gaines | Staff Writer

A new law in New York took effect July 1, requiring public schools to include mental health education in their health curriculum.

The state’s revised and improved legislation is expected to not only teach students about mental health but also help them notice the signs of struggle among themselves and others.

MaryEllen Elia, New York’s education commissioner, shared her stance in an email issued to NBC News:

“When young people learn about mental health and that it is an important aspect of overall health and well-being, the likelihood increases they will be able to effectively recognize signs and symptoms in themselves and others and will know where to turn for help — and it will decrease the stigma that attaches to help-seeking.”

Upon reading this story, I wholeheartedly agreed with the action, as I feel that mental health should be a mandatory course statewide.

Hampton University junior Ariane Owens thinks this decision to be a necessary adjustment to the curriculum.

“It’s a great necessity for society today,” the marketing major said. “Even though it’s not the system’s responsibility, making it available shows that they care.”

HU sophomore Jasmine Turner disagreed.

“Someone who is truly depressed won’t even be mentally checked in to absorb any of the information given,” Turner said. “It would be smart to address those that have the warnings signs and help guide them instead of clumping them with students who can care less because they don’t feel that pain nor think they ever will.”

Though I was immediately in favor of New York’s decision, questions had to be asked: Whose job is it to take the role of mental health education? Isn’t that kind of the parents’ duty?

Nancy Sankoh, a dietetics major at Bowie State University, thinks it really comes down to individual family dynamics.

“We look to our parents to teach us how to do things, so if they don’t, there’s no way of growing because we are still ignorant – like a child,” Sankoh said. “Parents really have to be open-minded and willing to understand that we might do crazy things, but it is because we’re young, and we don’t know any better.”

With Sankoh’s point, I realized there are parents who do not even know how to discuss topics such as depression or anxiety with their children because they were never taught on these subjects themselves. When their child displays warning signs, they turn a blind eye to it or try to concoct other solutions rather than seeking assistance from a professional.

To put it simply, we are all individually responsible to be conscious of our state of mind, especially when we begin to have doubts. Taking care of our mental health should never be shamed.

I applaud the effort that New York schools are making and hope to see more states break the silence and follow suit!

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