New York State has passed a law, which takes effect July 1, 2018, that will require mental health education in all grades in New York. John Richter, the director of public policy with the Mental Health Association of New York State, encouraged educators to think of it less as a new class or topic, “but to update the way you think about mental health,” and include it in existing day-to-day classes. He stated that it can be integrated into existing health class curriculum, and he said there are opportunities in other classes. “In literature, if you’re reading The Scarlet Letter, you’re going to learn an important lesson about stigma. If you’re in biology and you’re talking about brain synapses, you have the opportunity to talk about mental health,” Richter said. [Source]
This is a needed and very timely idea. However, the challenge is how to provide mental health education access to all—not only to those students who are able to cope with the regular curriculum. How are we going to ensure that we become more effective at reaching out to those students who are peripheral to the educational context, i.e., those who feel isolated and in particular those who use AAC? Is the underlying issue here not one of improving teacher–student interactions and peer interactions as a means to create more healthy school environments?
What do you think would be the best way to go about infusing some awareness of mental health issues into our schools? How would you make sure that users of AAC are included in this process?