New York City launches the largest student mental health program in the country

Mayor Eric Adams announced Thursday that all high school students in New York City will receive mental health support through telehealth programs, his first major effort to address growing concerns about student well-being.

“This year we will launch the largest student mental health program in the country,” Adams said during his annual State of the City address at the Queen’s Theatre. “We will provide our high school students with everything from telehealth to community counseling depending on their individual needs.”

Many students have experienced trauma during the pandemic, incl loss of loved ones Social bonds were strained during the long periods of isolation. Mental health professionals have seen increases in anxietyAnd suicidal thoughtsbehavioral challenges, and trends that have raised alarms.

School districts across the country are Increasingly reliant on telehealth, which may help reduce some of the barriers to mental health care and can make students or families more likely to attend sessions. However, telehealth requires access to devices, the Internet, and private space, which can be difficult to guarantee depending on whether students are expected to access services from home.

City officials did not immediately provide details on how the program would work, but some experts said they were cautiously optimistic about the announcement.

“I appreciate the city’s response to the really obvious needs of children and teens,” said Kevin Dahill-Fuchel, executive director of Schools Counseling, an organization that partners with about 70 schools across the city to provide mental health services. The schools his organization works with typically have more students who need mental health support than counseling schools can provide in a given year.

Dahill-Fuchel said there are a number of details that need to be filled in to properly understand how the telehealth program works. Will the telehealth sessions act as virtual drop-off centers where students can share their feelings or as traditional counseling sessions? What is the mechanism for students to access these programs and will students from the school participate? Would school staff be involved in monitoring it and likely be involved if students had more serious needs?

“It raises a lot of procedural questions that he’ll probably fill in later, but it’s hard for me not to focus on those questions right away,” said Dahel Fuschl.

The city is still exploring how to provide telehealth services, a spokesperson for the city health department wrote in an email, offering no additional comment on how the program would work.

The mayor’s mental health efforts had a few other components as well, including Daily breathing and mindfulness exercises.

Jelena Obradovic is a researcher at Stanford University Lesson He said breathing exercises can help students regulate their function, but little research has been done on whether these exercises improve learning outcomes.

“Teachers and students need effective strategies for responding to stressful lived experiences,” Obradovic wrote in an email. Deep breathing exercises can be incorporated in schools along with whole body exercises [social emotional learning] curricula, but should not be used as a substitute for it.”

City officials did not respond to questions about whether the breathing exercises would be linked to an official curriculum.

Here are other educational initiatives Adams highlighted during his speech:

  • Adams promoted some of his own Early literacy effortsincluding moving to Elementary schools require the use of phonics software. He also pledged to expand dyslexia examination to all universities and to open a school specifically for dyslexic students. This commitment has previously garnered mixed response from experts who argue that all schools should be able to teach students the challenges of reading.
  • Up to 35,000 middle school students in the City’s summer school program will get “career experience” and access to college visits. (Under the previous administration, the city’s “access to college for all” program Designed to give to all middle school students Access to college visits.)
  • About 90 schools and 7,000 students will participate in a program called FutureReadyNYC, Adams said, which is designed to expose students to potential career interests in high school, obtain college credit, or receive industry credentials. Previously30 high schools and 5,000 students were expected to participate.
  • The mayor said he plans to “expand nutrition education standards and plant-based menus in our schools.” The city has already started the transition to vegan lunches in school cafeterias on Fridays Some students were reluctant to take it. Adams said, “Our children may hate me today but they will love me tomorrow.”

Alex Zimmerman is a reporter for Chalkbeat New York, covering public schools in New York City. Contact Alex at

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