Rep. Napolitano Hosts Briefing on Youth Suicide & Mental Health

May 23, 2013 Issues: Mental Health
Photo (Left to Right): Dr. Paramjit T. Joshi, Amanda Uhme, Dr. Olga Acosta Price, Julie Kozminski, Rep. Grace F. Napolitano, Dr. Julie Goldstein Grumet
Rep. Napolitano Hosts Briefing on Youth Suicide & Mental Health

(Washington, D.C.) Yesterday, Rep. Grace F. Napolitano (CA-32) held a legislative briefing to address the alarming rates of suicide among youth and call for increased mental health services. This briefing marked the final event of May Mental Health Awareness Month, a time when advocates and activists across the country draw attention to mental health issues.

“We must all work together to eliminate stigma so that those suffering know it is always okay to seek help,” Napolitano said. “Mental health knows no boundaries, and it affects everybody in every segment of society. We must continue the dialogue and train teachers, family members, students, and administrators to identify the warning signs and symptoms to catch issues early on. I thank all of the panelists for their dedication to mental health and look forward to continuing to working with them on this critical issue.”

Panelists at the briefing included Dr. Olga Acosta Price, Director of Center for Health and Health Care in Schools at George Washington University (GWU) School of Public Health and Health Services;  Amanda Uhme, student and co-president of Active Minds at GWU; Dr. Julie Goldstein Grumet, Director of Prevention and Practice at the Suicide Prevention Resource Center; Julie Kozminski, MPH student at GWU & Public Policy Fellow at Mental Health America; Paramjit T. Joshi, M.D., Endowed Professor and Chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Children’s National Medical Center and Professor of Psychiatry, Behavioral Sciences, and Pediatrics at GWU.

“If we hope to address the troubling trends in mental health, schools must be invited to play a meaningful role in any system of care where young people are the focus,” said Dr. Acosta Price. “Evidence indicates that school-based interventions are a part of effective place-based solutions for any health condition that impacts children and adolescents.”

“There are hundreds of reasons not to get help,” said Uhme. “They can be social, economic, financial, personal, or cultural. These reasons creature barriers to service. Our job has to be lowering these barriers little by little until they disappear altogether and allow students to get help without struggle.”

“A comprehensive public health approach to suicide prevention is critical for reducing youth suicide in the US,” said Dr. Goldstein Grumet. “The revised National Strategy for Suicide Prevention, which was released by the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention and the US Surgeon General in 2012, is grounded in this approach and emphasizes that everyone – government, business, schools, health care industry, communities and individuals – has a role in helping to prevent suicide.”

“Mental health is a birth right for all and mental illness is treatable,” said Dr. Joshi. “Early intervention and improved access to quality treatment can help prevent the tragic and costly consequences of unidentified and untreated mental illness in youth by taking timely action. We all need to think bigger, think differently and markedly shift the paradigm about mental and behavioral health.”

Suicide is currently the third leading cause of death for young adults and adolescents. Napolitano has helped establish suicide prevention programs in more than a dozen L.A. County schools over the last ten years (Center for Disease Control and Prevention).

H.R. 628, the Mental Health in Schools Act of 2013, introduced by Napolitano, would create a competitive grant program which would allow the receiving school districts to hire mental health professionals for their district. By having qualified professionals working on-site in schools, they will be better able to provide prevention and early intervention services for students. It currently has 68 cosponsors in the House and the support of mental health organizations from across the country. Senator Al Franken (D-MN.) has introduced the Senate version of the bill (S.195), which currently has 18 cosponsors.

If you or someone you know needs help, call the SAMHSA Disaster Distress Helpline: 1-800-985-5990 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

For the Congressional May Mental Health Awareness Month calendar, visit http://napolitano.house.gov/legislative-work/may-mental-health-awareness-month.

To learn more about the Mental Health in Schools Act, visit http://napolitano.house.gov/legislative-work/mental-health-schools-act.

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