Lawmakers work to give students more access to mental health resources

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Nexstar) — Senators say there is a mental health crisis among our nation’s children.

Wednesday, lawmakers heard directly from students who say the problem is only going to get worse unless Congress steps in to provide students with the support they need.

17-year-old Brooklyn Williams told senators on Wednesday that just because she looks fine, doesn’t mean she is.

“I’m speaking in public so you might not suspect I have severe social anxiety.” Williams is a high school senior from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. “I ate my entire breakfast this morning but I still have bulimia, and I got out of bed and did my hair, so I do not look depressed,” she said.

Last year, there was an average of one school counselor for every 450 students. That’s nearly double the student-to-counselor ratio that’s recommended.

Dr. Curtis Wright is the vice president of student affairs at Xavier University in Louisiana. He says colleges are struggling to meet the growing demand of students seeking help on campus.

“There is a shortage of mental health providers in rural areas, in inner cities and economically depressed communities,” Dr. Wright said. “If you are coming to school needing support, you’re three months into the semester before you can actually get diagnosed, to begin treatment.”

Wright told lawmakers that more funding is needed for schools to hire more counselors and to train educators in mental health first-aid.

Louisiana Senator Bill Cassidy called on his colleagues to step up and pass the Mental Health Reform Authorization Act of 2022, which expired in September.

“There is an urgency here that we need to accomplish,” Cassidy, a Republican, said.