Goshen College President Rebecca Stoltzfus added her signature this 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.”
President Stoltzfus explained why this matters 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 issues. 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 Maryland Congressman David Trone, 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 have signed the letter.
On behalf of the undersigned institutions of higher education, we write to express our support for the Higher Education Mental Health Act of 2019, H.R. 3489 in the House and S. 1204 in the Senate.
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.
This critical legislation would serve to better inform our institutions and policymakers on how to address the increasing demand for mental health services for our students. It would establish a national commission to examine mental health concerns through the lens of retention and successful completion of post-secondary education. The commission would be comprised of representatives from higher education, mental health professionals, membership organizations, and other concerned stakeholders, who can best assess the current challenges and propose recommendations. We believe the creation of a Higher Education Mental Health Commission will lead to stronger policy and ultimately help students remain in school and complete their degrees. Congress has already taken a number of important steps, including the passage of college mental health provisions in the 21st Century Cures Act. A comprehensive response will seamlessly integrate the Higher Education Mental Health Act of 2019 with those existing efforts.
We strongly urge you to advance this important legislation that would have a positive impact on our students, institutions, and communities.
Thank you for your leadership to prioritize mental health within higher education.