Sauquoit students advocate for mental health in Albany – Oneida Dispatch Express News

ALBANY, N.Y. — Students from Sauquoit Valley High School in Oneida County traveled to Albany Wednesday for Mental Health Matters Day, a legislative advocacy event organized by the Mental Health Association in New York State (MHANYS). They were among the more than 300 students and 150 mental health professionals and advocates who came together to call for further state action to support the mental health needs of New Yorkers.

Three key issue areas—mental health education, workforce needs and housing—remained the focus of advocacy in meetings with state legislators and during a rally at the Capitol.

Students shared their experiences with lawmakers to help them understand the importance of ongoing investment to address mental health in schools, and mental health professionals emphasized the need for cost-of-living adjustments in wages for the human service workforce and funding for housing for people with mental illness or those in recovery.

“About 70 percent of teens see anxiety and depression as major problems among their peers, according to the Pew Research Center,” said MHANYS CEO Glenn Liebman. “Following New York’s first-in-nation mental health education law, more students are beginning to better understand mental health as well as how and when to ask for help. We’re making progress, but as hundreds of students made clear today, further action is urgently needed to support mental wellness in schools and communities across New York state.”

This was the first Mental Health Matters Day since the state law, which requires mental health instruction in all K-12 schools, went into effect. To help schools adopt the law’s requirements, MHANYS launched the School Mental Health Resource & Training Center last summer to provide educators and school districts with assistance and guidance as they develop new curriculum and create programs to support student mental health.

“Already, more than 50 percent of all public schools in New York state have accessed the School Mental Health Resource & Training Center for assistance, information or support,” said Amy Molloy, the center’s director. “Thousands of educators, parents and community members are using our website or taking advantage of in-person professional development sessions that we provide to school districts.”

To sustain the School Mental Health Center’s impact, MHANYS is now pushing for $1 million in state funding—which matches the budget allocation it received in 2018—to keep the Center fully operational in the year ahead.

“To educate a student in public school, the average cost is about $22,000 per year. For only an additional 33 cents per student, the School Mental Health Center is able to provide schools with the support and assistance they need to educate youth, families and staff about mental health. It’s a small yet critical investment that will improve the health and safety of students and communities,” said MHANYS Public Policy Director John Richter.

In advocating for the School Mental Health Center and its entire Mental Health Matters Day legislative agenda, MHANYS has found partners in the state Legislature and governor’s administration who understand the importance of promoting mental wellness and ending the stigma related to mental illness.

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