Lawmakers are introducing the Student Mental Health Rights Act during Mental Health Awareness Month, which would require the Department of Education to issue guidance to colleges and universities on how to better support students with mental health disorders, address substance use disorders, and comply with federal civil rights laws. The act would also direct the Secretary of Education to collect data on the prevalence of these disorders in academic settings and assess current policies.
A report from the Healthy Mind Network stated that 44% of college students suffered from depression and 37% from anxiety in the 2021-2022 academic year, but barriers such as financial costs and lack of available appointments prevent many from accessing care. Students with disabilities are protected by civil rights laws, yet continue to report discrimination and denial of reasonable accommodations.
Senator Edward J. Markey and Representative Katie Porter emphasized the need for more resources to support students experiencing mental health crises and substance use disorders. Co-sponsors of the bill include Representatives Suzanne Bonamisi, Joe Courtney, and Darren Soto. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, American Psychological Association, Anxiety and Depression Association of America, and other organizations endorse the act.
Senator Markey has convened public health leaders on expanding access to mental health care and substance use disorder care, introduced the Community Mental Health Recovery Act, and called for research on technology and media protection for children and youth. The Student Mental Health Rights Act is intended to make campuses safer for students at risk.