After doing letter-mailing and text-banking for the recent election, I became aware of college students’ desire to help change the government but a lack of understanding of how. Therefore, I wanted to center my senior civic project on getting college students engaged in issue advocacy.
As a neuroscience major and civic scholar, I decided to host an event for Brain Awareness Week that focused on mental health. Brain Awareness Week is a worldwide campaign, March 15-21, that promotes brain advocacy. This year for Brain Awareness Week, I hosted a seminar on the current mental health bill—H.R. 721—and a guide to issue advocacy. The event has passed, but I think it’s important that others know the good passing H.R. 721 would do for students in need of mental health services.
H.R. 721 would create a total of $200 million in grant funding for 100 public schools across the country to provide on-site mental health services for students. H.R. 721 is the updated version of the previous H.R. 1109 bill, which died in the Senate during the last Congress. As a bipartisan mental health policy, I feel that H.R. 721 is an excellent cause for college students to support.
This bill would provide access to more comprehensive on-site mental health care services for students and promote positive mental health education and support for parents, siblings, and other family members of children with mental health disorders. The aid is much needed because approximately one in five children have a diagnosable mental illness. But only about 20% of children with a mental illness receive care from a specialized mental health care provider. This leads to an average delay of 8-10 years between the onset of symptoms and biopsychosocial intervention for children. So H.R. 721 helps address mental health problems when students are young, instead of waiting until they have drifted into drug use, crime, depression or suicide.
By investing in mental health services for students, it can save lives by funding schools to employ mental health professionals who help prevent suicide by identifying at-risk youth and counseling students before their problems spiral out of control.
If you support this bipartisan legislation, I urge you to email your representatives about supporting the bill. I can only imagine all the good mental health services for students would do, especially in a pandemic.