New York City Mayor Eric Adams has announced that beginning in the 2023-24 school year, all public schools in the city will have to offer two to five minutes of mindful breathing work each day.
The New York Times reports that the announcement comes as some advocates and families have argued for a more robust local approach to youth mental health and have criticized the proposed elimination of funding for a program that connects high-need schools to mental health clinics and offers mobile response teams for students in crisis.
Adams, who has often preached the benefits of healthy eating, mindfulness and fitness in his own life, cast the plan as a simple, “low-hanging fruit” pathway to build students’ emotional skills and to address a youth mental health crisis exacerbated by the pandemic.
The breathing exercise requirement in New York City, the nation's largest public school system, reflects a renewed focus that many school districts have placed on student well-being in recent years, as they grapple with increased rates of anxiety, depression, self-harm and other mental health challenges.
In Los Angeles County, for example, virtual mental health services will be made free for all K-12 students under a new plan earlier this year. And in Illinois, a new law allowing students to take up to five excused mental health days off school recently went into effect.
Some elected officials, teachers and families in New York have called for a more comprehensive approach to addressing mental health needs. The New York State comptroller, Thomas P. DiNapoli, found that during the 2020-21 academic year, city schools were underprepared to address the youth mental health crisis. Since then, education officials have made several changes, including giving every school access to a social worker or mental health clinic.