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The Assembly Minority Conference

Take Care Of Yourself: Mental Health Is Essential To Overall Health

Legislative Column from Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, which highlights the importance of taking care of your mental wellness. Established in 1949 by Mental Health America, this year’s theme is “Back to Basics” and aims to provide straightforward information about mental health and mental health conditions for those seeking services and access to care.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, more than 52 million, or 1 in 5, adults in the U.S. experienced mental illness in 2020. Even more alarming, the pandemic further exacerbated mental health issues for children and teens. To this point, a recent report indicated 37% of high school students experienced poor mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic, and their greatest challenges included a lack of connectedness when schools closed, an increase in sadness, physical and emotional abuse, as well as family economic hardships. Hopefully, with the worst of the pandemic behind us, positive mental health changes can now begin.

As legislators, it is our responsibility to craft policy to help New Yorkers – veterans, health care workers, first responders, adults, adolescents and teens – coping and struggling with their mental health. As such, the Assembly Minority Conference has introduced several mental health-related measures, including:

  • A.7977, Blankenbush – Creating the Rural Suicide Prevention Council to examine the causes of rural suicides or attempts,as well as access to mental health care, and to make recommendations for rural suicide reduction;
  • A.5103, Reilly – Requiring the Office of Mental Health, Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services and the Department of Education to create a behavioral health website to provide information on numerous behavioral health issues;
  • A.8377, Giglio – Requiring the Office of Mental Health to conduct a study related to using therapeutic post-traumatic stress disorder techniques;
  • A.3501, Ashby – Enacting the “Health Care Worker Peer Support Program” to provide grants to eligible entities for the purpose of establishing peer-to-peer mental health programs for health care workers;
  • A.4646, Ashby – Allowing first responders who are diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder to request line of duty sick leave; and
  • A.3585, Ashby – Establishing a statewide green alert system for missing military members who have elected to join the system and who suffer from a mental illness, including post-traumatic stress disorder or a traumatic brain injury. 

Mental health is essential to overall health and directly impacts our quality of life and those around us. If your mental health is cause for concern, in Oswego County, mental health outpatient and inpatient services are available here; in Onondaga County, mental health services and information is available here; and in Jefferson County, mental health and mental hygiene information is available here. If you’re struggling, please, speak with a professional about treatment, therapy and the benefits of exercise and mediation. Most importantly, remember, you’re not alone and help is out there.

If you have any questions or comments on this or any other state issue, or if you would like to be added to my mailing list or receive my newsletter, please contact my office. My office can be reached by mail at 19 Canalview Mall, Fulton, NY 13069 and by email at