College students remind of need for mental health commission

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BOSTON (SHNS) – An organization representing Boston-area undergraduates is marking Mental Illness Awareness week by asking top lawmakers to pass a bill creating a commission on suicide prevention and mental health crisis management, but to first make sure that panel would take college students’ needs into account.

The Boston Intercollegiate Government, a coalition of undergraduate student governments, testified at a July hearing in support of Rep. Lenny Mirra’s bill (H 2120) to establish the commission, and asked legislators to make sure college students are represented on the commission and that the panel addresses that population’s mental health needs.

The bill remains before the Mental Health, Substance Use and Recovery Committee. BIG’s chairman, Dennis Wieboldt III of Boston College, and assistant director of governmental affairs, Zachary Greenwald of Northeastern University, wrote to House Speaker Ronald Mariano and Senate President Karen Spilka on Thursday, reiterating the group’s call to pass an amended version of the bill.

“Massachusetts has a very large population of college-aged students. This population, however, has particular mental healthcare needs, especially in light of COVID-19,” their letter said. “Once amended, this legislation will help to ensure that this population is not overlooked by the Commonwealth.”

In its July testimony, BIG cited a summer 2020 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report on mental health, substance use and suicidal ideation during the COVID-19 pandemic, which found that 25.5 percent of respondents aged 18 to 24 “reported having seriously considered suicide in the 30 days before completing the survey.” 

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