Goshen College president backs Higher Education Mental Health Act

Rebecca Stoltzfus

GOSHEN — Goshen College President Rebecca Stoltzfus added her signature last week to a letter of support for the Higher Education Mental Health Act of 2019, a bill that seeks to address the growing number of students in higher education with mental health concerns.

The letter states: “Research shows that more than 75 percent of mental health conditions begin before the age of 24 and that the number of students seeking support on college campuses has grown exponentially in recent years. As institutional leaders, we have seen firsthand the challenges that students with mental health concerns face on campus. We also know the negative impact mental health disabilities can have on college access and success.”

Stoltzfus said the issue is important to Goshen College.

“Depression and anxiety are rising in adolescents and young adults today, and this rise is not only due to the healthy lessening of stigma around these issuesm” she said. “Use of mental health services and medications are increasingly common – which is a good thing. But even as therapy and medical treatment increase, rates of depression and suicide are also increasing steeply.”

“We at Goshen College are responding to these concerns in new ways, making therapy mainstream, facilitating faculty readings and discussions of how to be responsive in our classrooms, and nurturing a strong network of relationships and referrals amongst staff, faculty, therapists and clinical services. But this bill would bring nationwide attention,” Stoltzfus said.

The bill would establish a national commission to study the mental health concerns of students at institutions of higher education.

According to U.S. Rep. David Trone, D-Md., who authored the bill, the commission would include stakeholders that represent disability and student advocacy groups, institutions of higher education, individuals and students with mental health disabilities and family members of students enrolled in an institution of higher education.

The bill would also require the commission to release a report at the end of its investigation that examines the services available to students with mental health disabilities and the current policies in place to help students remain in school and complete their degrees. The report will also provide detailed recommendations that institutions of higher education, states, and the federal government can make to improve the mental health services available to students and properly address the rising number of students with mental health concerns.

More than 230 college presidents and administrators signed the letter.

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