More than one in three college students live with mental health issues such as depression or anxiety, according to the American Psychological Association.
To ensure college campuses are equipped with mental health resources to accommodate the growing number of students who need treatment, Assemblyman John Armato recently introduced legislation to require colleges to implement a variety of mental health programs and services.
“It can be challenging to manage a mental health condition while in college,” said Armato (D-Atlantic). “Living away from home, taking on a rigorous academic workload and experiencing new social challenges may be more complicated for a young person with depression, anxiety, OCD or bipolar disorder. With mental health resources readily available on college campuses, students will have access to any support they need.”
The bill, called the “Mental Health Early Action on Campus Act” (A-3005), requires institutions of higher education to develop, implement and raise awareness for mental health resources on campus. Among the programs would be a student-peer support program; strategic partnerships with local mental health service providers; and an annual student orientation session to raise awareness for mental health.
Higher education institutions would also be required to create and prominently display information on mental health resources on their website or mobile app. They would need to distribute messages about mental health resources at least once per semester and during periods of high stress during the academic year, like midterms and finals, as well as implement online mental health screening tools.
“When it comes to mental health, the first step towards getting help is the knowledge that help is available,” said Armato. “Every college in New Jersey should not only have the programs in place to help students with mental health conditions, but be able to ensure students are aware of the wide range of assistance available to them.”
Additionally, the Secretary of Higher Education under the bill would be required to develop a Technical Assistance Center to create standardized policies for medical leave related to mental health conditions for students, among other responsibilities.
The measure now heads to the Assembly Speaker for further consideration.