The demand for mental health services by students and faculty members has increased enormously since the start of the pandemic. Two bipartisan bills recently passed in the House of Representatives aim to address this growing crisis by helping colleges create evidence-based policies and procedures to address mental health and addictions on campus.
Both bills passed the House with bipartisan support and have been introduced in the Senate, where similar support is expected.
Mental health research shows that since 2013 there has been a 135% increase in depression and a 110% increase in anxiety among college students. Additionally, a Harris poll of 1,000 college students showed college students are 12 percentage points more likely to be diagnosed with a mental illness than the typical American adult.
Campus managers are also concerned. A 2020 survey indicated that 70% of university presidents said mental health was their top concern, and 66% of university presidents noted an increase in the use of mental health services on campus. Additionally, in April, a group of nearly 100 organizations representing higher education sent a letter to Congress demanding investments in mental health on college campuses.
Colleges were able to use some of the $76.2 billion allocated to colleges across the country through higher education emergency relief funds as part of the US bailout to tackle mental health , but many campuses lack the resources and guidance needed to effectively perform mental health and suicide. – prevention programs.
The Improving Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Through Campus Planning Act would require the Department of Education to partner with the Department of Health and Human Services to encourage colleges to create plans comprehensive to address mental health and suicide on campus.
Manuela McDonough, director of government and advocacy affairs for the Jed Foundation, an organization that works with colleges to create mental health and suicide prevention plans, said research has shown that “when a college and a university have a plan in place, they are more likely to improve student mental health, prevent suicide, and identify the risks students face.
Similarly, the Campus Prevention and Recovery Services for Students Act of 2022 would encourage collaboration between the Department of Education and HHS to create programs that successfully treat alcoholism and drug addiction and support services.
David Arnold, assistant vice president for health, safety and wellness initiatives at the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators, said that while many colleges want to implement better programs to combat mental health or addiction, they often don’t know where to start. . These two bills would allow the Departments of Education and Health and Human Services to provide an information plan on effective ways for colleges to devote their resources to mental health and addictions services.
“This really is a unique opportunity to break down those silos and promote this intra-agency collaboration to address this really real problem,” said Randy Moore, policy manager at Active Minds, an organization that advocates for student mental health.
Increased leadership and collaboration from the federal government would greatly help colleges with reduced capacity to develop mental health policies, sources said. This includes smaller colleges that typically already work with limited staff and resources to address mental health.
The Drug Abuse Bill would make key changes to the wording of the part of the Higher Education Act 1965 relating to required efforts to prevent drug and alcohol abuse. Colleges would be required to use programs backed by scientific evidence to prevent substance abuse.
The Mental Health Enhancement Act does not include funding for additional mental health services on college campuses, but Congress could still act to provide more funding for existing programs like the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act, which provides federal grants to states for youth mental health and suicide. -prevention efforts, including on university campuses. The program, which currently provides $7 million a year for these efforts, is due to expire at the end of this fiscal year. Many mental health advocates are pushing Congress to pass the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Reauthorization Act, a Republican-led bill introduced in the House in March that would both reauthorize and provide additional annual funding of 13 million dollars for the program.
The Campus Prevention Act authorizes $15 million annually to help fund both substance abuse prevention and recovery programs and to create a grant program to help institutions create and implement new standards.