Amid an ongoing youth mental health crisis, the Enhancing Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Through Campus Planning Act would ensure colleges provide comprehensive mental health support to students
[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – Today, U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Tim Scott (R-SC) led a bipartisan group of six senators in introducing legislation to help improve college students’ mental health and incentivize higher education institutions to develop and implement comprehensive mental health and suicide prevention plans.
“This bipartisan measure will provide students with the mental health support they need to succeed,” said Blumenthal. “Our country is in the midst of a youth mental health crisis with serious cases of anxiety, depression, and thoughts of suicide growing among college students. Our bill aims to ensure colleges are prepared with the best evidence-based plans to promote positive mental health on campus and to support students when they need help the most.”
“Mental health issues have skyrocketed on college campuses, where students struggle with depression and anxiety at an alarming rate. Sadly many students — particularly those at smaller universities with fewer resources — lack the help they need. This bill will help address those gaps and enable students to focus on what matters: their friends, their activities, and most importantly, their education,” said Scott.
The Enhancing Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Through Campus Planning Act would amend the Higher Education Act, and require the U.S. Department of Education (ED) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to collaborate and encourage higher education institutions like universities and colleges to create proactive plans for preventing suicide and promote positive mental health among students to address the mental health crisis. These plans would align with strategies recommended by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) Suicide Prevention Resource Center, specifically its nine-part Comprehensive Approach to Suicide Prevention.
In the Senate, the legislation is cosponsored by U.S. Senators Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA), Chris Murphy (D-CT), and Michael Bennet (D-CO).
“The college years can be a wonderful time for many young adults, but they can also be a time of increased anxiety and stress – especially over the past few years,” Capito said. “While many colleges and universities have put in place plans to promote positive mental health and suicide prevention, ensuring our federal agencies overseeing health and education are working together to encourage and help in the creation and implementation of these plans will hopefully contribute to preventing future tragedies.”
“Let’s take what we learned from COVID and increase mental health services for students,” said Cassidy.
“Nearly half of all college students report feeling depressed or anxious, and that number continues to rise. Away from their families and hometowns, we need to make sure those students can access mental health resources on campus. Our legislation would help colleges and universities develop comprehensive plans to ensure their students can access life-saving mental health care and suicide prevention,” said Murphy.
“Colorado’s youth continue to face a mental and behavioral health crisis, and it’s imperative that we meet them where they are with resources and support. Our bill will help colleges connect students with mental health and suicide prevention services as they work to further their education,” said Bennet.
The text of the legislation can be found here. In the House, the bill was led by U.S. Representatives Susan Wild (D-PA) and Fred Keller (R-PA), and passed with overwhelming bipartisan support in June. The legislation has been endorsed by a number of mental health, education, and youth advocacy organizations.
“In the past year, the youth mental health crisis has continued to worsen, with over 40% of college students reporting depression, and one in three reporting anxiety. The Enhancing Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Through Campus Planning Act is important in ensuring that colleges and universities develop and implement evidence-based, comprehensive campus mental health and suicide prevention plans to support and protect these young adults' emotional well-being,” said John MacPhee, CEO of The Jed Foundation. “We applaud Senators Blumenthal and Scott for their leadership on this bill. Now is the time to act and strengthen mental health for college students across the country.”