TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senator Joseph Cryan and Senator Nellie Pou that would require institutions of higher learning to implement and expand suicide prevention programs, provide students with more information on depression and suicide, and raise awareness of mental health services was released today from the Senate Higher Education Committee.
Under the bill, which builds upon measures already put in place under the “Madison Holleran Suicide Prevention Act,” campus personnel trained in mental health treatment and who are currently available to students 24 hours a day, seven days a week would also be responsible for training other faculty and staff on ways to recognize the signs of depression and on the referral of students to crisis hotlines and mental health screenings.
“Today’s college students face enormous pressures, pressures that have been exacerbated by the mental stress and trauma brought on by the COVID 19 pandemic. This bill will shore up mental health services for all students, provide more training for campus personnel to identify potential cases of mental distress, and allow students to avail themselves to proper treatment when and if they need it,” said Senator Cryan (D- Union).
Student mental health in higher education has been an increasing concern, and the COVID-19 pandemic has brought this vulnerable population into renewed focus. According to a study done by Texas A&M University, students showed an increase in mental health issues and of those who participated in the study, 71% indicated increased stress and anxiety due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
“College is a time of tremendous upheaval and change for students even under normal circumstances. In these particularly trying times, with COVID still a daily concern, many continue to struggle with depression, and need help. Through this legislation, we can see to it that faculty and staff learn to better recognize the danger signs and lead students to the help they need before they consider taking their own lives,” said Senator Pou (D-Bergen/Passaic).
The bill, S-503, passed the Senate Higher Education Committee by a vote of 5-0.