National Alliance on Mental Illness
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Senate Passes Legislation to Expand Access to On-Campus Mental Illness Treatment Services and Address Youth Suicide

On Thursday, July 8, the Senate cleared legislation authorizing a new program to support mental illness treatment programs at colleges and universities and expand early intervention services aimed at curbing youth suicide. The campus mental illness treatment legislation, S 2215, authorizes $10 million for the prevention, screening, early intervention, assessment, treatment, management, and education activities related to mental illness treatment services for college students. Under the bill, funds can be used to educate parents and hire staff and expand training for on-campus programs. The legislation also addresses the stigma of mental illness through development of outreach strategies to reach those students most in need of services.

The youth suicide legislation, S 2175, is designed to help state and local governments and non-profit organizations develop and implement statewide youth suicide early intervention and prevention strategies. Such strategies will help ensure that planning and services reach youth and their families in their communities, in schools, juvenile justice systems, substance abuse programs, mental health programs, foster care systems and other child serving organizations. Grants would be designed to help reduce youth suicide through statewide screening and early intervention and promotion of greater accountability through evaluation of the effectiveness and efficacy of the suicide prevention activities.

During debate on the Senate floor, Senator Gordon Smith (R-OR) delivered a very moving speech about his son Garrett and his struggle with bipolar disorder – a struggle that ended in Garrett’s tragic suicide last year. During debate on the Senate floor, these two bills (S 2215 & S 2175) were combined into a single measure -                S. 2634 and named in honor of Garrett Lee Smith. NAMI congratulates Senator Smith and his family for their enormous courage in talking about Garrett’s illness and his efforts to bring about positive change in the wake of their tragic loss.

Action Needed

It is important to urge the House of Representatives to pass this bill before summer recess.  Please contact your Representatives by calling, toll-free, 1-800-839-5276 and urging them to speak with House Majority Leader Tom DeLay and the Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, to ensure that this bill passes before the summer recess.  Some talking points that illustrate the urgency of this matter are provided below:

  • Suicide is the third leading cause of death for 15-to-24-year-olds.

  • 19% of all surveyed high school students had seriously contemplated suicide.

  • Nearly 24% of all surveyed female high school students had seriously contemplated suicide.

  • Nearly 9% of all surveyed high school students had attempted suicide.

  • Nearly 16% of all surveyed female Hispanic or Latino students had attempted suicide.

Thank you for your advocacy!