Daley highlights bill for mental health training at schools

HARRISBURG, May 20 – As part of Mental Health Awareness Month, state Rep. Mary Jo Daley, D-Montgomery, during a Capitol news conference today highlighted the need for school coaches to receive mental health training.

Her legislation (H.B. 1367) would help to ensure that students, parents and guardians, athletic coaches and extracurricular advisors are all made aware of the availability of mental health services within a school and/or local community. The bill would also require that athletic coaches receive mental health awareness training similar to training required of other school personnel.

“We expect our school professionals to be there for our children, so with modern concerns facing us, it’s imperative that we keep fresh the training resources that give our teachers and coaches the ability to do their jobs,” Daley said. “Nearly half of America’s youth struggle with mental health before turning 18. Unfortunately, teenagers might not come forward and might be fearful of seeking help because they don’t think it would be ‘mentally tough.’”

“I stand today before you as someone who made a comeback from an injury that felt like the end of the world, and it likely would have been if not for the support of my coaches,” said Brynn Neidgh, a student-athlete at York Suburban who spoke in support of the bill.

A recent study surveying more than 10,000 coaches found only 18% of youth coaches feel highly confident in their ability to link athletes to mental health resources, and 67% want more training and information on the subject.

“The overwhelmingly majority of coaches want this training,” said Mekkai Williams, a Temple student and mental health advocate who advocated for H.B. 1367. “There are already mandatory trainings for physical health. Why should mental health, which is equally important, be any different?”

“There is a misbelief that coaches don’t want this training on mental health. That is simply untrue,” said Miranda Jenkins, who is a social worker and swim coach at York Suburban. “As a coach, I am always learning and growing.

“It is important to be able to understand your athletes and what they are going through.”

House Bill 1367 was reported out of the House Education Committee earlier this month and is now under consideration by the full House of Representatives.

“This piece of legislation is not the end, but it must be the beginning,” said Kevin Lawrence, a social studies teacher at Southern York County and head baseball coach at Red Lion. “To those who have the power to enact it and to propel us down the road to caring, supporting and protecting more young people, please vote yes.”

The news conference can be viewed in its entirety here.