Assembly Democrats Mila Jasey, James Kennedy and Bill Moen took action to strengthen suicide prevention efforts on New Jersey’s college campuses by sponsoring a bill that would amend the Madison Holleran Suicide Prevention Act. The Assembly Higher Education Committee on Thursday advanced the bill, which seeks to help disseminate information about the signs of depression and mental health services available to college students.
In 2016, New Jersey enacted the Madison Holleran Suicide Prevention Act after Madison Holleran, a 19-year-old New Jersey resident and athlete at the University of Pennsylvania, took her own life during her second semester of college. According to her family and friends, Madison had not exhibited outward signs of depression before she started college. The act ensures colleges and universities have mental health professionals available on campus or remotely by phone 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to assist students in crisis.
The bill (A-1176) seeks to amend the Madison Holleran Suicide Prevention Act to require mental health experts on campus to work with and annually train faculty and resident assistants to recognize signs of depression, as well as warning signs and risk factors of suicide. These experts would also provide training on referring students to crisis hotlines and mental health screenings.
The bill would also allow colleges to satisfy the requirements of the Madison Holleran Suicide Prevention Act by providing students with the number of the National Suicide Prevention Hotline, the NJHopeline or any other 24-hour hotline deemed appropriate by the Secretary of Education.
Under the bill, colleges would be required to conduct an annual mental health awareness campaign to provide students with information on depression and suicide, raise awareness for available mental health services, and reduce the stigma associated with seeking help. Colleges would also be required to develop mental health crisis assessment and response plans to be used by staff and resident assistants to identify, assess, and respond to a student in crisis.
Upon committee approval of the bill, Assembly sponsors Jasey (D-Essex, Morris), Kennedy (D-Middlesex, Somerset, Union) and Moen (D-Camden, Gloucester) issued the following joint statement:
“Far too many college students struggle with depression and other mental health issues in silence when we have a multitude of resources available to help them. We must do everything in our power to promote these resources to help save lives by letting students know they are not alone.
“Suicide is preventable, and by expanding our existing suicide prevention efforts we can ensure that students, faculty and staff members are aware of the warning signs and ready to step in to help when it is needed.”