Senators Warren and Cassidy Urge HHS and Department of Education to Issue Guidance Addressing the Mental Health Needs of Students
The CDC recently reported that almost 75 percent of people aged 18-24 reported at least one adverse mental or behavioral health symptom; 25 percent had seriously considered suicide in the past 30 days; "It is imperative we invest in our students' mental health, particularly now that many of their lives have been upended by the pandemic and are now cut off from their on-campus support systems and primary mental health providers"
Washington, DC -- United States Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.) M.D., members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, sent a bipartisan letter to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar and U.S. Department of Education Secretary Betsey Devos, urging them to issue guidance to both K-12 schools and colleges and universities detailing how they should provide supports, services, and accommodations to address the increased needs of their students who face new or ongoing mental health needs that have arisen or been exacerbated by the ongoing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. Their request also urges the agencies to take into consideration the unique challenges to mental health for minority students, students with disabilities, students experiencing homelessness, and tribal nations to account for the unique and disproportionate effect the pandemic has had on these communities.
"The COVID-19 pandemic has upended the lives of people across the country, including approximately 55 million students enrolled in K-12 schools and 20 million college students," the lawmakers wrote. "Due to the immense toll the pandemic has taken on the mental health of students, K-12 schools and colleges and universities must be equipped and prepared to help students and address the diverse range of mental health challenges they face as a result of the pandemic."
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected millions of students, and studies have already revealed the toll it is taking on their mental health. Among K-12 students, more than 25 percent of young people between the ages of 13-19 reported poorer emotional and cognitive health as a result of the pandemic. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently reported that almost 75 percent of people aged 18-24 reported at least one adverse mental or behavioral health symptom as a result of the pandemic, and 25 percent had seriously considered suicide in the past thirty days. 66 percent of college students reported that the pandemic has caused them undue financial stress, a known predictor of student mental health and well-being. Prevention and early intervention are especially crucial during the college years given that 75 percent of lifetime mental illnesses first onset by age 24, meaning that many students experience their first signs and symptoms during their college years. The pandemic has only accelerated these trends.
"It is imperative we invest in our students' mental health, particularly now that many of their lives have been upended by the pandemic and are now cut off from their on-campus support systems and primary mental health providers," Senators Warren and Cassidy wrote. "As such, we request that you issue guidance so that K-12 schools and colleges and universities may be better equipped to help their students -- and particularly minority students, students with disabilities, students experiencing homelessness, and students from tribal nations -- cope with the unique mental health challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes guidance on how both K-12 schools and colleges and universities can best use federal funds to support the mental health needs of students."
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