LEAD to impact mental health education in Massachusetts
Leominster Champion - 8/17/2017
Several years ago, a group of former Leominster High School students noticed that something critical was missing from their curriculum: Education on mental health. Given that teenagers are constantly exposed to stressors that can cause mental illness, it seemed imperative to these young students that they be taught about mental health and wellness in addition to their other core classes. They also discovered that there were no high schools in Massachusetts that offered curriculum on mental health. As a result, they decided to develop a course that could be used in conjunction with the school's regular Health Education class, and it would focus on mental health.
These students, who are a part of Let's Empower, Advocate, and Do (LEAD), developed an innovative mental health curriculum to improve student wellness, academic performance, and early intervention in school districts called Mental Health Promotion (MHP). MHP is the Health Education supplement LEAD developed that incorporates all the information from Health class, while expanding on the mental health topics that affect students. As a part of the curriculum, students are taught using Mental Health first aid, newspaper articles, TED Talks, resources from nonprofit organizations, etc. It is a half-year course, similar to normal Health Education currently required by Massachusetts public schools.
I find that incorporating this type of coursework is critical for teenage students. The Senate recently passed LEAD's bill S.2112, "An Act Relative to the Promotion of Mental Health Education in Massachusetts High Schools." It asks that public schools be given the option to utilize a mental health curriculum when teaching standard health classes. This year Leominster High School piloted the class, and it was a success.
I hope that with the passage of this bill, more high schools in Massachusetts will provide students with the option to have Mental Health Promotion as a part of their Health Education. This bill's next step is to the House, where it will need to pass to move on to the governor's desk.
LEAD's mission is to provide educators, students, and organizations with training and curriculum to promote mental health education and well-being. For more information, please visit www.leadnow.org.