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NY May Require Teachers to Recognize Student Mental Illness

March 4, 2016

students-in-class-with-teacher-readingWe are pleased to learn of a proposed New York State bill that would require teachers, as part of their required continued education, to recognize and respond to mental illness in students.

The sponsors of the bill, Senator Jesse Hamilton and Assemblyman Marcos Crespo, have no intention to require teachers to become masters of mental health issues. However, because many teachers spend more time with students than the students’ parents, the lawmakers believe teachers are in an ideal position to identify basic red flags that indicate that a student may be experiencing a mental health crisis.

The proposed training would help teachers to identify early warning signs of a mental illness. A study has shown that as many as twenty percent of students will endure some kind of mental illness. Many of these students will not, or would not know how to, reach out for help. Teachers would be trained on connecting students with appropriate professionals, who would then be able to provide necessary treatment.

The sponsoring legislators hope that the training can assist teachers in dealing with mental health crises that occur in their presence. Students may have sudden behavior abnormalities or display signs of self-harm or possible suicide risk. Many people are unaware of how to best react under these circumstances. Teachers with proper training would be able to react swiftly to prevent physical or further mental harm to any students involved in such situations.

Still in early stages, the mental health training bills have been introduced to both the State Assembly and Senate, but neither house has yet scheduled the bills for a vote.

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