Today, on World Social Justice Day, we are reminded of the ongoing struggle to create a more just and equitable society for all. Addressing racial inequality is one of the key components of this effort to ensure marginalized communities have access to the same opportunities and resources as others and recognize the unique challenges faced by different marginalized groups, especially when it comes to mental health. Mental health legislation is one key way that Active Minds is looking to guide efforts towards change this year, especially when it comes to communities that have been historically oppressed in the field of mental healthcare.
Mental health disparities among communities of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC), the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) community, and people with disabilities are well-documented. These groups are less likely to seek help for mental health concerns and when they do, they are less likely to receive appropriate care. This is due to a variety of factors such as systemic racism, discrimination, lack of cultural competence among providers, and lack of access to mental health services in underserved communities. That’s why we are proud to unveil our legislative agenda for the 118th Congress, which includes four key priorities that we believe are essential to achieving social equity across in our communities:
- The Improving Mental Health Access for Students Act aims to address the mental health disparities faced by students, particularly BIPOC, LGBTQ+, and students with disabilities, by expanding access to mental health resources, including suicide prevention resources on school identification cards.
- The Improving Mental Health and Wellness in School Act seeks to add mental health promotion and education to the existing requirements of local school wellness policies. This includes the inclusion of registered dietitians, school-based mental health services providers, and a multidisciplinary team of school personnel in the development and implementation of local school wellness policies. Additionally, the bill would require schools to promote mental health, encourage mental health assessments, and establish resilient school environments.
- The Higher Education Mental Health Act directs the Secretary of Education to establish an Advisory Commission on Serving and Supporting Students with Mental Health Disabilities in Institutions of Higher Education. Its key purpose would be providing recommendations on how to improve the mental health services available to students and properly treating the rising number of students with mental health issues.
- The Youth Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Act authorizes the Secretary of Health and Human Services to establish a grant program that enhances services for high school students with mental health and behavioral health issues such as depression, substance abuse, and suicide attempts. Active Minds supports the creation of this new funding stream to empower schools to utilize evidence-based practice to address the mental health needs of its students in a comprehensive and meaningful way.
As we continue to support youth and young adults in using their voice to influence public conversation around mental health, increase access to mental health resources and care, and advocate in their communities for lasting mental health change, these policy priorities will help guide the path to action forward. We invite you to join us by learning more about our featured mental health legislation using the guide on our website — we can’t wait to see how our world changes through these efforts.