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 approved by a Senate committee today.
“Today’s college students face enormous pressures that were exacerbated by the disruption to their lives from the 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 get proper treatment when and if they need it,” said Senator Cryan (D- Union).
Under the bill, S-503/A–1176, 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.
“College is a time of tremendous upheaval and change for students even under normal circumstances. In these particularly trying times, 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).
Student mental health in higher education has been an increasing concern, and the COVID-19 pandemic 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.
The bill was approved by the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee with a vote of 11-0.