New York State lawmakers have recently joined with teachers to promote a more comprehensive and proactive approach to spotting and helping students with mental health issues, reports the New York Daily News.
Assemblyman Marcus Crespo and Senator Jesse Hamilton both came forward recently with legislation that would give teachers more resources to be the “first line of defense” when mental health problems appear in the classroom. The proposed legislation, according to JP Updates, would focus on better training for teachers so they can spot the early, and often overlooked, signs of mental illness.
Teachers wouldn’t be required to receive the amount of training that health professionals and clinicians receive. It would be provided as a continuing education course and would help teachers better understand the signs of mental illnesses and feel more confident in their abilities to refer students to the “appropriate services.”
Crespo and Hamilton noted that as many as 20% of students suffer from a mental illness today and teachers typically spend more time with these students than any other adults do — including parents, in many cases.
“Mental health impacts children’s readiness to learn just as surely as having the right textbooks, up-to-date technology, or school meals,” said Sen. Hamilton. “That’s why this legislation aims at sharpening the expertise of educators across New York State. This Mental Health First Aid Bill will contribute to our schools’ ability to promote wellness.”
The legislation is a refreshing and realistic way of approaching mental illness in America, if nothing else. As Healthcare Dive noted, Republicans often prefer to associate gun policies with mental illness, stating that gun violence could be solved by addressing mental health reform.
Although Republicans and Democrats across the board seem to agree that mental health reform is necessary, disagreements about how mental illness relates to violence has kept most meaningful legislation from passing through the federal government. And with around 300 bills waiting to be passed through the Senate at any given time, there’s already enough competition for one potential piece of legislation to be considered.
The Mental Health Association in New York State has already applauded Crespo and Hamilton for their actions.
“We look at it as sort of preventative tool,” said Glenn Liebman, CEO of the MHA of New York State. “There is no expectation that [teachers] are going to be clinicians. The expectation will be that they will recognize that a child is in a mental health crisis and they can refer them to appropriate services.”