Government Hochul organizes listening sessions with young people to focus on their mental health

State officials will tour the region this spring, including Long Island, where they will conduct listening sessions on the issues impacting the mental health of youth in the area, Governor Kathy Hochul announced Thursday.

The move comes as Hochul seeks support for her proposed 2024 budget, which includes more than $1 billion over the next five years to overhaul the state’s mental health system.

“It’s been overlooked for a long time,” Hochul said of mental health during the first listening session at the New York State Psychiatric Institute in Manhattan. “But right now, our nation and our state are in the middle of a mental health crisis. And it’s affecting all New Yorkers.”

Teens from New York City schools discussed on Thursday how the pandemic affected their mental health; the role social media has played in their lives; how schools can promote well-being in students and the types of mental health programs they would like to see in schools.

Kay Daniel Thompson, a senior at Hillcrest High School in Queens, said she would like to see more investment in school counselors.

“We haven’t really learned how to manage our stress or how to do it in a healthy way,” Thompson said. “In the past few years, young people have struggled the most with isolation, which is how we try to deal with the stress we feel, drug abuse unfortunately, and manage our emotions in a healthy way.”

The listening sessions will be coordinated by the state Office of Mental Health and the Office of Children and Family Services and will involve a cross-section of school-age youth from each host community, officials said.

The sessions will conclude in May with a youth mental health and wellness summit featuring students, parents, teachers, mental health experts, technology leaders and law enforcement experts, Hochul said.

“I’m thrilled that our governor can hear firsthand from children and families struggling with epic levels of anxiety and depression post-COVID,” said Jeff Reynolds, president of the Family & Children’s Association in Mineola. “There are significant gaps in care, especially here on Long Island where there is a shortage of social workers [and] psychiatrists, and overstretched and underfunded community organizations have waiting lists.”

Hochul said her budget proposal includes more than $30 million to expand mental health services in schools across the state, $10 million for suicide prevention and additional funding focused on eating disorders and crisis intervention at home.

Reynolds called the funding “historic” but said, “It’s essential to get those dollars into communities in a timely and strategic manner.”

Government Hochul organizes listening sessions with young people to focus on their mental health

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