Bill would mandate mental health awareness training for teachers

mental health in schools

A new bill would require teachers to complete mental health education and awareness courses to make them more knowledgeable about mental health issues with their students.

Assemblyman Marcus Crespo and Sen. Jesse Hamilton proposed the new legislation (S.6234/A.9299) because, they noted, children spend much of their time in school, making it one of the most efficient ways to catch and treat potential mental health problems.

The bill would require teachers to complete training every five years after July 1, 2016, including best practices for the safe de-escalation of crisis situations, and identifying signs and symptoms for the early stages of mental illnesses, and situations that warrant notification of appropriate school officials.

According to a study cited by Crespo and Hamilton, an estimated 20 percent of students have a mental health problem. The lawmakers believe teachers are in a unique position to easily identify mental health issues with their students because they sometimes spend more time with students than their parents.

New York State United Teachers is reviewing the bill. But, Carl Korn, a spokesman for NYSUT, noted there are currently social workers, nurses, and aids in the state’s schools who have extensive mental health training, so the union is still analyzing the potential impact on teachers.

The Mental Health Association of New York State has endorsed this legislation, stating that teachers don’t need to be clinicians and don’t need to be diagnosing students, but instead need to be understanding of the problems.

“The expectation will be that they recognize that a child is in a mental health crisis and they can refer them to appropriate services,” said Glenn Liebman, chief executive officer of the Mental Health Association.

If this bill passes it would go into effect immediately.