Governor Kathy Hochul visits MHS to discuss mental health

Governor Hochul with students

On Tuesday, Feb. 27, Governor Kathy Hochul visited Mohonasen High School to engage in a conversation about mental health with students and staff members. She was eager to hear directly from them about their experiences, concerns and ideas for fostering a positive mental health environment in our own schools and throughout the state.

Governor Hochul was in attendance with members from the New York State Office of Mental Health and representatives from Northern Rivers Family Services, and was joined by Mohonasen staff members, and eight Mohonasen High School students—freshman Nazir Powell, sophomores Miley Fredenburg and Olivia Castelli, junior Amelia Maksuti, and seniors Alexandra Vandervoort, Noah Sausville, Zoe Miller, and Sophia Massaroni.

Governor Hochul addressed the group and started a roundtable discussion asking students if they are still feeling the isolation effects from the COVID-19 pandemic. The answer was overwhelmingly yes. The students then gave credit to Mohonasen school counselors and social workers for helping them through such a difficult time.

Upon hearing the student responses, Governor Hochul then asked the students what adults can do to help support them. The students expressed the necessity for diverse pathways for addressing mental health challenges among students.

“Everyone is different. It is not a simple fix. We need to be listening to every voice in the room when it comes to healing,” said a student.

The students also discussed their concerns involving social media and harmful algorithms. “I find myself mindlessly scrolling all the time. It seems like certain applications know what triggers you and hooks you in with a hateful algorithm,” said another student. 

Social Worker Diane Blinn told Governor Hochul about the community approach the district takes when supporting students.

“It takes a village,” said Blinn. While she expressed her concerns about the growing number of students with mental health issues, Blinn also stated that she sees more adults wanting to learn how they can better support students.

“We have over 200 staff members trained in the Youth Mental Health First Aid program. Now, more than ever, staff members have the resources to support students, and students have the access to get the proper help they need,” said Blinn. “I am proud of our work but there is still so much to do.”

Teachers shaking hands with Governor Hochul

Governor Hochul praised the district for, “helping lay the foundation for healthy coping skills.” 

“I can tell most of your students feel comfortable asking for help when they need it,” she said to Mohonasen staff.

“Addressing the mental health needs of students will change lives for the better. We will work together to provide the support and resources necessary to ensure the well-being of our young people,” Governor Hochul added. 

The governor concluded her time in the district with a press conference in the high school library. The Mohonasen media arts and live production class joined the press line and live-streamed Governor Hochul’s conference and had the opportunity to ask the first question.

“The Safe for Kids Act and the New York Data Protection Act are both a big portion of your campaign for teen mental health. They are also both in the Committee Senate. When do you expect these acts to reach your desk for signing,” the students asked. 

“Hopefully mid-March,” Governor Hochul responded. 

“These are both very important and I’m working with our legislators to talk about the fact that parents should have some controls as well. We need to restrict these algorithms to young people but also have control so you can shut them off from midnight to six in the morning because this is when students need to be sleeping,” she added. 

The Mohonasen Central School District would like to thank Governor Hochul for her meaningful visit. It was a memorable day for both students and staff alike. The district appreciates her dedication to bolstering the mental well-being of our students within our local community and across the state.

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