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Press Releases

NYC Health + Hospitals/Jacobi Conference Shines Light on State Requirement to Include Mental Health Education in School Curricula

Jun 04, 2018

Leaders of NYC Health + Hospitals/Jacobi and Community Advisory Board Members join guests of the Mental Health Conference.
Bronx, NY

NYC Health + Hospitals/Jacobi’s Community Advisory Board hosted its annual mental health conference, this year focused on New York becoming the first state in the nation to require the inclusion of mental health education in curriculums for elementary, middle, and high school students.

Speakers included MaryEllen Elia, Commissioner of the New York State Department of Education, and Ann Marie Sullivan, MD, Commissioner of the State Office of Mental Health. Each touched on the fact that half of all lifetime cases of mental illness begin by age 14, but only 20 percent of children receive specialty mental health treatment.

Since symptoms of mental illness can be apparent during a visit to a pediatrician and during school, Commissioners Elia and Sullivan are hopeful that incorporating mental health education into curricula for young children will help with early childhood mental health diagnosis and treatment. They also highlighted the need to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health, which can be potentially life-threatening if patients are untreated and left feeling isolated.

“Our Mental Health Conference is one of the Community Advisory Board’s most significant contributions to the community,” said Christopher Mastromano, chief executive officer of NYC Health + Hospitals/Jacobi. “I’m deeply appreciative to the hospital’s Behavioral Health team for their hard work serving so many in the Bronx, and to Sylvia Lask, whose passion and activism cultivate such a meaningful event each year.”

The conference has become a staple for the community, often serving as a valuable forum for sharing information as it relates to behavioral health issues. The conference, currently in its 8th year, is pioneered by Sylvia Lask, a mental health advocate for three decades and the special events chairperson for NYC Health + Hospitals/Jacobi’s Community Advisory Board.

“If you suffer from mental health issues or love someone who does, the lack of information available can often be a barrier to getting better,” said Sylvia Lask. “This conference inspires hope for those in need and helps the community bridge the gap to mental health care. The new legislation requiring all schools to incorporate mental health education into the curriculum is very important to me. If we save just one life, it was worth all the effort it took to get it passed.”

Held on May 16, the conference also included presentations by Amy Molloy, director of education, and John Richter, director of public policy, both of the Mental Health Association of New York State Inc.; and Matthew Shapiro, associate director of public affairs of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Both organizations advocate for those suffering from behavioral health issues, and championed the legislation.

“In psychiatry, we know that early intervention with mental illness leads to a better prognosis, less substance use, less self-harm and violence, fewer hospitalizations, and an overall increase in wellness,” said Maryann Popiel, MD, chair of Behavioral Health at NYC Health + Hospitals/Jacobi. “Yet all too often, a lack of education about mental illness and its treatment leads to misrepresentation, stigma, and even ridicule.”