Cárdenas, Trahan Introduce Youth Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Act
WASHINGTON, DC – Yesterday, Congressman Tony Cárdenas (CA-29) and Congresswoman Lori Trahan (MA-3) introduced the Youth Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Act, legislation to support positive mental health promotion and suicide prevention programs in high schools. The bill would authorize the Secretary of Health and Human Services to establish a grant program that provides funding to school districts to strengthen behavioral health awareness through planning and prevention efforts, public health campaign materials, and additional activities. This bill was included in the “Cárdenas HEART (Health Equity Access, Resources, and Treatment) Package” – a health equity legislative package that was released last month.
“Right now, millions of students across America are struggling with mental health conditions made worse and brought on by the pandemic,” said Congressman Cárdenas. “Reports of depression and anxiety have increased, and, unfortunately, suicides have gone up as well. That’s why, as we work to reopen and put students back in classrooms, we must not forget our nation’s youth who are struggling, many of them in silence. That’s why I’m proud to introduce this legislation which will provide support for schools and children. To those who are struggling: you are not alone.”
“Far too many families in Massachusetts have been immeasurably impacted by mental health disorders and a lack of accessible resources that could have prevented suicide,” said Congresswoman Trahan. “I’m reminded of the Bjork family in Concord and the Aslanian family in Lowell who are mourning the tragic loss of a child – Chase and Anna, who had such bright futures ahead of them – to suicide. It’s glaringly obvious that further investments in education, treatment, and strengthened mental health services are needed to ensure that no stone is left unturned in the fight to end youth suicide. This long overdue legislation will enable us to live up to the promises we made to the Bjorks, the Aslanians, and many others in our community to do everything possible to prevent another teenage suicide.”
"We commend Rep. Tony Cárdenas for his leadership in promoting youth mental health and suicide prevention," said John MacPhee, Executive Director and CEO of The Jed Foundation (JED). "Suicide continues to be a leading cause of death among 10 to 24 year-olds. A recent study conducted by JED in partnership with Fluent Research found that students' mental health needs were significant but were not fully addressed in high schools due to a lack of effective resources and programming. Through this bill, high schools will have access to funding that can help support comprehensive peer-to-peer programming, training programs, mental health screenings and services, and other infrastructure to create a safe environment for their students and staff."
Endorsements: American Association for Psychoanalysis in Clinical Social Work, American Counseling Association, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, American Psychiatric Association, American Psychoanalytic Association, American Psychological Association, Anxiety and Depression Association (ADAA), Association for Ambulatory Behavioral Healthcare (AABH), Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP), Clinical Social Work Association, Confederation of Independent Psychoanalytic Societies, Girls Inc., Global Alliance for Behavioral Health and Social Justice, Inseparable, International Society for Psychiatric Mental Health Nurses (ISPN), The Jewish Federations of North America, Maternal Mental Health Leadership Alliance, Mission Community Hospital, National Association of County Behavioral Health and Developmental Disability Directors (NACBHDD), National Association of Rural Mental Health, National Center of Excellence for Eating Disorders, National Federation of Families, National Register of Health Service Psychologists, RI International, Inc., San Fernando Community Health Center, Sandy Hook Promise, School Social Work Association of America (SSWAA), SMART Recovery, The Jed Foundation, The Kennedy Forum, The National Alliance to Advance Adolescent Health, The National Association of Social Workers, The Trevor Project, Well Being Trust.
A state audit in California found that that from 2009-2018 the number of youth suicides increased by 15% statewide and self-harm incidents increased by 50%. According to the study, youth mental health is worsening with 9.7% having severe depression, up from 9.2% last year. Prior to COVID-19, mental health was worsening and is now projected to continually increase. Additionally, the report finds that suicidal ideation among adults is increasingand there is still unmet need for mental health treatment.
A CDC study found that mental health related emergency room visits increased 31% for children between the ages of 12 and 17 from March to October compared to last year. Conditions due to the pandemic that isolate children at home are causing anxiety, depression, and lack of sleep. The conditions include in person schools being cancelled and reduced, limiting children’s interactions with peers, as well as limited extracurricular activities.
Last week, Congressman Cárdenas introduced the Crisis Counseling Act, which would automatically approve requests by any state, territory, and tribe for a Crisis Counseling and Training Program (CCP) after it had been granted a Stafford Act declaration. The legislation would remove bureaucratic barriers that delayed critical support for communities as the COVID-19 pandemic spread across the United States. Cárdenas also introduced the Virtual Community Support Act to strengthen community-based and peer support services virtually both during and after the pandemic.
Last month, Cárdenas introduced the Strengthening Mental Health Supports for BIPOC Communities Act, legislation that aims to remove systemic barriers to mental health services that Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) communities have historically faced.
Congressman Cárdenas sits on the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Health Subcommittee.