Pelham Together Youth Council Visits Albany to Advocate for Youth Mental Health

Members of the Pelham Together Youth Council traveled to Albany for Mental Health Matters Day hosted by Mental Health Association of New York State (MHANYS) to advocate for resources and policy related to youth mental health. They heard from different state leaders and advocates from other schools and spoke individually with their elected officials, Senator Nathalia Fernandez and Assembly Member Amy Paulin.  Some of the legislative priorities discussed were:

988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline:  This hotline began in 2022 and is currently facing funding challenges.  Students discussed the need for these services to truly be available 24/7/365, which requires a funding level commensurate with 911, and they shared personal experiences with being put on extended hold or told to call back due to insufficient coverage.

Teen Mental Health First Aid and Accompanying Teacher Training:  Governor Hochul has invested in a program called Teen Mental Health First Aid which builds mental health literacy among 10-12th grade students using a peer-to-peer model.  Pelham students applauded that investment, as well as the requirement that all schools K-12 include mental health literacy as part of the health curriculum. They encouraged lawmakers to support efforts to require mental health training for all school personnel in order to promote a comprehensive culture of wellness in every school.

Wellness In Pelham:  In addition to the efforts currently underway in Pelham schools, students shared that they wished for an overall Wellness Plan in the high school that they would like to help shape. Some specifics included making  existing services more obvious and accessible, elevating all those who play a role in supporting mental health in the school and the community so kids know who they can turn to and how to make it easier to take that first step to ask for help; setting up more connections between older and younger youth as a way to encourage supportive relationships across ages and schools; and other ideas aimed at reducing the stigma of asking for help with their mental health. 

Not only was the sun shining that day in Albany, but so were these young leaders. There is so much hope for the future when youth speak and advocate for change. Pelham is a lucky community to have youth as committed as these young people to the wellness of their peers. 

Pelham Together is a not-for-profit organization located in Pelham.  Their mission is to support the physical, social, and mental wellbeing of all youth by creating as many opportunities as possible to build resilience and a sense of connectedness and belonging as part of the community.