EDITORIAL: Mental health classes benefit all students


Source: Wilson Medic One Graphic by Sydney Hamilton

Sydney Hamilton, Editor-in-Chief

According to Governing magazine, as of July 1, 2018, New York became the first state to require schools to incorporate mental health education into their curriculum. Virginia is also working on integrating mental health education into ninth and 10th grade classes.

According to Bustle, the classes will “promote greater understanding of various mental health conditions” and “include exercises in describing feelings, and developing increased emotional intelligence over time.”

Nebraska, as well as other states, needs to propose this bill as soon as possible to educate students. Teaching mental health education will not only benefit students but also staff members because they need to learn the curriculum before they teach it.

Unfortunately, there will always be obstacles and in New York the majority of complaints come from teachers unions. They were worried about the extra burden that it would put on teachers, because they would have to alter their lesson plans.

To assist with the predicted “burden,” the Mental Health Association in New York is helping teachers to accommodate their lesson plans to integrate the new information about mental health. Some school districts are also providing extra training for their teachers, other schools are hiring psychologists and social workers and another is creating a peer mentorship program for their students.

The bill does not specify what topics are meant to be taught, but teachers would teach students various lessons about coping mechanisms, signs of a mental illness, how to help someone struggling with mental health, and where to go to/who to talk to about mental health issues.

Ideally, in the near future, mental health is a topic that will be taught throughout all schools in the United States because it will help students be more informed on the signs and behaviors of people with mental illnesses.

According to Kristin Longacre, Social and Emotional Counselor at North, there will be lessons during Viking Time to inform students about mental health awareness.

“As for the School Counseling department, we have grade level Viking Time lessons planned in the month of November and December. A survey of staff members in August revealed that as a staff, we want to focus our wellness goals on Emotional and Mental health,” Longacre said.

While this is not as beneficial as teachers consistently teaching about mental health, it is a good way to start talking about the subject before politicians begin working on the bill. To keep the content taught to students consistent, Longacre said the key mental health subjects that students should learn are how stress affects people, coping mechanisms, how to recognize mental illness and how to practice self care.

The benefits of teaching students these topics result in multiple things from simply understanding the effects of mental illness to eliminating the negative stigma around mental health.

Longacre believes a mental health class would be a great idea to help students improve their mental health. It may be difficult to create a whole class so by integrating mental health education into different classes, students would have more opportunities to learn about these topics and would therefore be able to provide more support to those around them.

“Understanding how the brain works and how our nervous system responds to stress and trauma can help students cope…a mental/emotional health class could help students identify and cope with the serious issues they face,” Longacre said.

The more time schools put off teaching their students about mental health, the more students that will stay quiet about their mental health issues. The only way to help more students on a larger scale is to educate everyone about mental health as soon as possible.