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TODAY analysis: More states requiring mental health education by law

As millions of U.S. children deal with anxiety or depression, schools are trying to help.

Talking about mental health isn't taboo in Andrea McCabe's fifth-grade class at Chatterton School in Merrick, New York. It's just another day at school.

On a recent day, Miss McCabe, as the children call her, lead the class in an exercise: "Everybody say, 'Stress,'" she instructed the students. The class echoed, "Stress."

"How many of you have ever felt stress?" McCabe asked. Every student raised his or her hand. "It's a normal thing, right? We all feel stress sometimes."

The students also learned about forgiveness. "Sometimes holding onto something that's bothering you is so much more stressful that just forgiving and moving on," McCabe told them.

Together, they breathed in and out.

"The best thing about belly breathing is you can do it without anybody knowing," McCabe instructed.

"I can be walking down the street and do belly breathing, and de-stress while I'm walking."

Then, the students brainstormed ways to cope.

"Just start fresh with whatever you're stressed out on," a boy suggested.

"Count to ten," said another.

"Take a shower," a third recommended.

This isn't the fifth-grade class you had in school. New York Bill A3887B, signed into law in 2016, requires mental health education to be a part of health education across all grade levels. One of its goals was to enhance understanding and promote human dignity, supporters wrote.

"When the law was passed, people were woken up," said Dominick Palma, superintendent of the Merrick Union Free School District.

TODAY analysis finds more states require mental health education by law.