Sen. Smith Introduces Mental Health Bill After Sharing Her Experience With Depression
The bill would help provide mental health resources to schools
FARGO, N.D. — May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and experts say one in five Americans suffer from a mental health issue.
Sen. Tina Smith (D-Minn.) is introducing a bill to address it. She recently revealed she struggled with depression in her teens and late 30’s.
“I’m really blessed that I was able to get the help I needed to get better. It helps me to really relate to this issue, and it drives me to want to make sure everybody has the same access to mental health care that I’ve had,” she said.
The Mental Health Services for Students Act would provide $200 million for local communities. The money would go towards partnering schools and organizations to get services into schools. It would also train teachers to recognize signs of mental health issues and get students the help they need.
“A lot of times issues fly under the radar. It’s sad to see kids access services a lot later, the earlier we can get kids in for support really helps our community,” Brooke Hammond with The Village Family Service Center said.
She says she sees a lot of anxiety and depression in kids, as well as low self–esteem and isolation. Those issues affect how kids function both at home and in school.
“A lot of that leads to truancy issues too and family conflict and conflicts in relationships,” she said.
Smith says mental health is not a one–size–fits–all problem. School districts would be able to discuss the needs in their area and apply for grant money. That way, rural schools won’t be overlooked.
“If you are a student in a rural high school, you might have to drive 40,50, 60 miles or more in order to get to a counselor or psychologist. That completely disrupts your day, then you have the stigma of trying to explain to everyone where you’ve been,” Smith said.
Experts say the sooner intervention happens in children, the better off they will be as adults.
“It’s part of the philosophy that mental health is just health,” Smith said.
If you’re struggling with mental health, there are links to resources here.