There are many students suffering from mental health disorders in colleges and universities across the United States. The mental health issue directly affects students because it reduces quality of life and impedes positive academic performance. In addition, mental health problems interfere with physical health and educational satisfaction as well as negatively influence relationships the students have with friends and families. The Student Mental Health Rights policy proposed on November 20, 2019, attempts to help students struggling with mental health problems. The policy is premised on the need to ensure mental health policies in colleges and universities align to federal mental health guidelines.
The policy is founded on evidence-based research and requires the concerted efforts of federal agencies and institutions of higher learning. The proposed policy on mental health rights of students was introduced by Congresswoman Katie Porter, who prior to this, had received a proposal from the National Council on Disability (NCD) (National Council of Disability, 2019). The NCD is an unbiased federal agency that gives an opinion to the President and Congress on relevant issues relating to disability policies. The NCD proposed a raft of recommendation envisaged on a research released in 2017, and titled Mental Health on College Campuses: Investments, Accommodations Needed to Address Student Needs (National Council of Disability, 2019). The research focused on the experiences of students living with mental disabilities in colleges and universities during occasions of crisis. Additionally, the research discussed the need to apply antidiscrimination policy frameworks supported under the federal laws.
The proposed policy would work in diverse ways. Foremost, the policy requires the Secretary of Education, in consultation with Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, to issue favorable guidance with regard to the legal obligation of institutions of higher learning (Porter, 2019). The issued legal guidelines relate to how the institutions of higher learning can accommodate students struggling with mental disabilities. Second, the proposed policy requires the Secretary of Education to examine, evaluate as well as report the best practices to be implemented in relation to the management of students’ mental health conditions (Porter, 2019). Lastly, the policy calls upon the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights to outline the best practices of dealing with mentally ill students supported by various legal modifications. The legal modification and proposals are meant to address the needs and accommodation of students suffering from mental health disabilities.
The background of the policy is anchored on the varied experiences of students struggling with mental health disabilities in academic institutions. Per Schwanz et al. (2016), there are many students across the United States encountering mental health challenges. These students find themselves contending with reduced help occasioned by intolerant campus policies. The policy, therefore, helps the student by ensuring they are not discouraged from seeking the appropriate help they need. The proposed policy attempts to help students living with mental disabilities to succeed in college as well as improve their quality of life. The federal laws forbid university and colleges from enacting and implementing policies that discriminate students based on mental health demands (Schwanz et al., 2016). The proposed policy helps to address this provision by helping universities, and colleges comply with the federal guidelines relating to mental health policies as well as formulate campus policies that support students with mental health needs. Particularly, the mental health policy addresses stigma associated with mental health disability by ensuring that students staying away from their parents access the support and services they require to thrive in education and life.
The present evidence concerning the increase in the number of students experiencing depression and anxiety supports the proposed policy. Porter (2019) reveals that college campus around Florida and across the country has recorded increase in the number of students suffering from mental health problems. Further, it is estimated that more than 11.2 million people aged 18 years or older in the United States suffered from mental health problems in 2017 (National Institute of Mental Health, 2019). The prevalence rate of mental health problems is high on women representing 5.7 percent than men estimated to represent 3.3 percent (National Institute of Mental Health, 2019). The high prevalence rate among those aged 18 and 25 makes the policy a necessity for students considering that it is the age bracket of students in colleges and university.
Additionally, the consequences of mental health problems to the specific students make the policy a necessity. Schwanz et al. (2016) opine that mental health problems affect a student’s performance, concentration, and dependability as well as the mental ability to accomplish academic goals. In 2015, 30 percent of students had their academic performance affected because of stress, 22 percent due to anxiety, sleep difficulties accounted for 20 percent while depression represented 14 percent (American College Health Association, 2015). The evidence shows that students suffering from mental health disorders may not adequately achieve their academic and life goals.
Mental health disabilities are a significant problem considering that the number of those experiencing depression, anxiety, stress, and sleep difficulties is increasing daily. The stigma associated with mental health problems prevents these students from asking for help. The stigma is necessitated by insensitive campus policies that discourage students from seeking the necessary help when they need it. The mental health policy proposal is a necessary step towards addressing stigma and insensitive policies in academic institutions. The proposed policy requires the collaboration of federal agencies and academic institutions to come up with uniform policies that do not discriminate students struggling with mental health. The policy ensures that students access the mental health services they need.
American College Health Association. (2015). National college health assessment II: Spring 2015 reference group executive summary. Hanover, MD: Author. https://www.acha.org/documents/ncha/NCHA-II_WEB_SPRING_2015_REFERENCE_GROUP_EXECUTIVE_SUMMARY.pdf
National Council of Disability. (2019). NCD letter to Congresswoman Porter regarding Student Mental Health Rights Act. National Council of Disability. https://ncd.gov/publications/2019/ncd-letter-congresswoman-porter-regarding-student-mental-health-rights-act.
National Institute of Mental Health. (2019). Mental illness. National Institute of Mental Health. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/mental-illness.shtml.
Porter, K. (2019). Press releases: Rep. Porter introduces legislation to protect students’ mental health rights. Katie Porter. https://porter.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=77.
Schwanz, K., Palm, L., Broughton, S. & Hill-Chapman, C. (2016). Self-reliance and relations with parents as predictors of anxiety and depression in college students. Research in Psychology and Behavioral Sciences, 4(2), 24-27. Doi: 10.12691/rpbs-4-2-2.