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Male professor teaching students in classroom

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On July 1, a new law took effect in New York that mandates mental health as part of health education in schools, making the Empire state the first in the U.S. to require mental health to be taught as part of health education.

Considering the numbers, this type of learning experience is long overdue. According to the American Psychiatric Association, 50 percent of mental illness begins by age 14 and the number jumps to 75 percent by 24. The National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI) also points out that one in five youth live with a mental health condition, but less than half of these individuals receive the necessary help.

New York’s State Education Commissioner, MaryEllen Elia points out that these lessons can decrease stigma that students may hold towards mental illness and be a catalyst for changing these statistics in the future.

“When young people learn about mental health and that it is an important aspect of overall health and well-being, the likelihood increases they will be able to effectively recognize signs and symptoms in themselves and others and will know where to turn for help — and it will decrease the stigma that attaches to help-seeking,” she said in an email to NBC News Better. “It is critical that we teach young people about mental health.”

The New York State Mental Health Education Advisory Council that began in August 2017 was comprised of the New York State Education Department, New York State Office of Mental Health and the Mental Health Association of New York State, Inc. (MHANYS). The collective was formed in order to provide guidance to schools on how to advance mental health in the classroom.

Some of the nine core elements they’re recommending to educators include how to identify early signs of mental health problems (as well as mental health crises), the concept that mental health is part of wellness, debunking stigma, and providing appropriate resources to turn to for help and support if someone you know is facing a mental health problem.