Catskill High School’s Yellow Ribbon suicide prevention team participated in the Mental Health Association of New York State’s (MHANYS) Mental Health Matters Advocacy Days this March. Instead of heading to Albany as they have in years past, the students attended the events virtually this year.
“It was a different experience than being at the Capital, but it was still impactful,” remarked CHS Health and FACS Teacher Colleen Clancy, who is the Yellow Ribbon advisor.
Over the course of the event, the students learned how to effectively advocate with legislatures, learned about similar peer-run youth organizations across the state, and heard students share their empowering stories. They heard from Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul, who spoke about the critical importance of focusing on mental health and wellness and the various initiatives that the state is implementing. Senator Samra Brouk, chair of the Senate Mental Health Committee, spoke about the three main focuses of the committee this year, which are ensuring that children get the support they need, addressing racial injustice and ensuring culturally competent care, and providing resources to help people in crisis. The students also heard from Georgianna Velie, a Catskill graduate and former Yellow Ribbon member, who emphasized the importance of mental health literacy training and increased resources at the college level. The students also participated in a virtual “Mental Health Matters” rally.
When asked about the experience, CHS student Anastasia Hummel explained that,“It was eye opener for me about how much mental health is important and how it affects everything from just getting up in the morning to just going to work or going to school.” She added that, “It’s also important to reach out and ask for help in times of need. It is really inspiring that there are people that are trying to get the funding and trying to pass bills to improve the mental health of the people. I hope more people will realize that they’re not alone and can go to people they trust for help.”
Some of the current legislation that our students are advocating for is:
- School mental health resource and training centers
- Mental health training for school personnel
- Enhanced school-based mental health services
- Mental health-based absences from primary and secondary school
- Suicide prevention: model school policy
- Whole-health equity for colleges
- Supporting mental health literacy
- Crisis intervention teams
- Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs)
- Responding to COVID-19 collective trauma
- Mental health parity
Cats Can, and Cats Will!