For the first time, two U.S. states will require schools to provide mental health education in a bid to combat a rising tide of depression and psychological hurdles facing American youth. New York and Virginia enacted their respective mental health education laws on Sunday. The states’ statutes differ on the specifics, as CNN reports. In Virginia, the basic premise is that physical education or health education curricula for ninth and 10th graders have a mental health component. In New York, elementary, middle, and high school curriculum will include mental health.

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New York’s law doesn’t endorse a specific curriculum on the issue; Virginia’s will require the state’s Board of Education to update its “Standards of Learning” to spell out what should be taught. While the moves weren’t specifically responses to recent high-profile suicides, including that of celebrity chef and culture journalist Anthony Bourdain, they do come in the wake of concerning public health trends reported by groups like the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and others. For instance, the share of adolescent Americans contemplating or attempting suicide nearly tripled between 2008 and 2015, according to an analysis of hospital data published in the journal Pediatrics in May. Suicide became the second leasing cause of death for young Americans in 2016.

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“I was impressed by their thoughtfulness, because a lot of these young people had seen bullying. They had seen depression,” said Deeds, according to CNN. “It’s part of tearing down the stigma and providing some equality with those that struggle with mental health.”

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Over the years, state law has expanded to recognize that knowledge about specific public health concerns such as alcohol, drug, tobacco abuse and the prevention and detection of certain cancers is critically important for students. “Equally critical, but missing from current law and often the classroom, is the recognition that mental health is as important to health and wellbeing as physical health.”


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