Defining what mental health and wellness is and isn’t can be extremely helpful in order to demystify cultural perspectives regarding this topic of interest. Katie Mendell, CABOCES Community Schools Coordinator, shared with Scio’s faculty and staff a wealth of information regarding mental health and wellness and what we can do in education to help our students. Understanding the continuum of well-being around mental health and educating the importance of the mind-body connection benefits all learners.
New York State Education Department (NYSED) Board of Regents permanently adopted a proposed amendment in May 2018 clarifying for schools what health education should include in all grades. Schools are required to: include mental health and the relationship of physical and mental health; and designed to enhance student understanding, attitudes and behaviors that promote health, well-being and human dignity. Many school may already be incorporating these elements in their education of health, however this formalizes the new requirements in law.
Take a moment and think of a situation where you recently felt upset; What feelings did you experience? How about a situation that made you feel happy? What were you doing? Simply defined, mental health is how one thinks, feels, and acts. The spectrum of wellness on mental health ranges and often times we associate mental health with mental illness. Katie shared a wealth of information in order to demystify and redefine mental health as how we think, feel and act. Mental Illness is a diagnosable illness that affect a person’s thoughts, feelings, and actions as well as disrupts the ability to engage in daily activities.
What can we do for our students? We can begin by reviewing and assessing our current K-12 health education curricula for alignment to new mental health education requirements; build capacity and strengthen relationships between educators and pupil personnel services (school psychologist, social worker, counselor, nurse); developing school-community partnerships with mental health professionals and organizations; identify strategies to engage families and students in supporting mental health and well-being; support a school climate “Culture of Care”; and leverage partnerships and build upon existing resources to develop a sustainable infrastructure for mental health. The following cards were shared with faculty and staff and also provided to students.
By: Jessica Schirrmacher-Smith, CA BOCES Professional Development