Artwork courtesy of: Emma Ruck and Soulflow

Artwork courtesy of: Naomi Gerrar, Sarah Yuster, and Cat Finnie

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), health is “a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being”.  Although long neglected, mental health is a crucial part of our lives and our health. This is especially true for youths. Youths are at the crucial stages of social, emotional, and cognitive development  (Johnson et al., 2011). Hence, disruptions can be particularly problematic as youth mental illness is associated with “poor academic performance, disrupted psychosocial development, a lower rate of high school graduation, and increased risks” (Moon & Mendenhall, 2017).

Due to the high levels of stigma still associated with this topic, it is crucial for better understanding of mental health to be established from a young age. For our final project, we decided to explore the youth-mental health system in New York City because of a recent implementation of a unique policy which makes it mandatory for schools across the state to include mental health education as a part of K-12th school curriculums. Though this policy seems like a step in the right direction, New York City’s historical gentrification across its 5 boroughs (namely Manhattan, the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, and Staten Island) has created wealth and racial divides across this landscape which already negatively impact youth mental health from a young age. The implications of these forms of structural violence on youth’s mental health education and access to mental health services will be further discussed in our video.

Overall, our project aims to expose the issues behind the history of NYC’s mental health policies, the access to mental healthcare services, and the effectiveness of mandatory school mental health education in schools at a historically deep and geographically broad level. We attempt to accomplish this by employing the critical concepts from this class: structural violence, band-aid care, health as the ability to adapt, the location of laboratories for policy creation, white supremacy, and using the biosocial and horizontal approach. Furthermore, we used an ‘empirical lantern’ approach in order to get a true understanding of what mental health access looks like for youth in New York City by interviewing mental health experts who work with different community organizations across the different boroughs and in different settings, including providing mental health services to youth, improving the compulsory mental health education, and teaching the curriculum. After repetitive evaluation and analysis of our interviews, we argue that structural violence — which is brought about by poverty, the ability to obtain insurance, racism, health inequities, unequal funding for schools, and many more issues — plays a significant role in affecting youth mental health in New York City. We believe that these types of issues must be further addressed in order for New York’s mandatory mental health education policy to be successful in the future.  

Watch Our Video Below!

Video Guide:

1. Introduction (0:00 - 5:46) 
2. History of Mental Health Policy in New York City (5:47 - 11:28)
3. Structural Violence and the Quality of Mental Health Education in NYC Schools (11:29 - 19:19) 
4. Structural Violence and Access to Mental Healthcare Services (19:20 - 27:15)
5. Future Directions (27:15 - 31:26) 

Big Special Thank You to Our Interviewees!

Our interviewees include… 

1) Vibrant Emotional Health
John Orr: Associate Vice President of children, adolescent & family services
Jackie Brown: Program Director of the Adolescent Skills Center in the Bronx

2) MHANY’s School Mental Health Resource Training Center
Cohen Miles-Rath: Project Coordinator

3) Dalton High School
Justine Fonte: Director of Health & Wellness

(Each of these experts gave us different insights into the highlights and struggles of providing successful and accessible mental health care. Once again, thank you for participating in our project.)

Video Project Team Members

From top to bottom: Yodahe Gebreegziabher, Bubble Lui, Hanna Soulati, Seo Young Yoo


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