During Mental Health Awareness Month, Rep. Porter Introduces Bills to Improve Student and Educator Mental Health
Legislation addresses the growing mental health crisis in schools
Washington, May 25, 2023
Today, Rep. Katie Porter (D-CA) introduced two bills aimed at improving the support students and teachers receive when struggling with mental illness. Teachers and students alike are experiencing a mental health crisis. In 2022, over a quarter of educators reportedsymptoms of depression, with job satisfaction for teachers at record lows due to job-related stress. Students and youth are similarly affected by mental illness, with reports of up to 44% of college students suffering with depression and 37% with anxiety from 2021-22. The Student Mental Health Rights Act and Teacher Health and Wellness Act would improve compliance with existing federal law and expand the toolkit for well-being in schools.
Student Mental Health Rights Act
Rep. Porter’s Student Mental Health Rights Act, co-led by Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) and Rep. Joe Courtney (D-CT), directs the Department of Education to establish guidance and determine campus compliance with federal laws that protect students with mental illnesses. Senator Edward J. Markey (D-MA) has announced companion legislation in the Senate.
“Our young people cannot thrive and succeed if we do not seriously address our nation’s mental health crisis,” said Rep. Porter. “The laws we have on the books aren’t translating into protections for students, which is a sign we must redouble our efforts to get schools to comply with mental health safeguards. My Student Mental Health Rights Act with Senator Markey, Rep. Bonamici, and Rep. Courtney will help make campuses safer for students in crisis.”
“We are in the midst of a mental health crisis, but for too long, we have left students and their schools without a roadmap for navigating it,” said Senator Markey. “Failing to give students and institutions of higher education the resources they need to support students experiencing a mental health crisis or substance use disorder means failing to give all students the opportunity for full and equal access to an education. This legislation will support students who have faced discrimination while providing clarity to academic institutions about their responsibilities to protect students’ civil rights.”
“The last few years have been exceptionally hard for college students, and many are experiencing depression and anxiety,” said Rep. Bonamici. “Students should always be able to access mental health care on campus and receive necessary support from their college to thrive in their academic and personal lives. I’m grateful to join Rep. Porter in introducing the Student Mental Health Rights Act to improve college mental health policies and destigmatize getting care for mental health.”
“As Congress and our communities continue to work to destigmatize mental health challenges, we must do more to make sure college students—many who are living away from their families for the first time—have the supports and services they need on campus to thrive,” Rep. Courtney said. “I want to thank Rep. Porter for her leadership on this important legislation to help better align colleges with federal policies and improve our understanding of mental health challenges among college students.”
The Student Mental Health Rights Act is also cosponsored by Rep. Darren Soto (D-FL) and endorsed by the American Federation of Teachers, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, American Psychological Association, Anxiety and Depression Association of America, Association on Higher Education and Disability, Autistic Self Advocacy Network, Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, Council of Administrators of Special Education, International OCD Foundation, National Association for Children’s Behavioral Health, National Association of Social Workers, National Center for Learning Disabilities, National Education Association, The Arc, The Kennedy Forum, Trust for America’s Health, and the University of California System.
Teacher Health and Wellness Act
The Teacher Health and Wellness Act, co-led by Rep. Joe Courtney (D-CT), addresses the pattern of rising job-related stress among educators by directing the National Institutes of Health to study teacher well-being and ways to reduce stress and improve retention.
“As a mom and former teacher, I am deeply concerned about the rising levels of stress that are pushing educators out of the classroom,” said Rep. Porter. “We need to support the people who care for our children, and that starts by giving them resources to take care of themselves. My Teacher Health and Wellness Act would help us take steps forward by studying how to boost the well-being of teachers.”
“Our educators carry a serious responsibility in caring for and molding our students. Unfortunately, our nation is seeing rising rates of teachers leaving the profession due to stress. In fact, educators are almost three times more likely to report symptoms of depression than other adults,” Rep. Courtney said. “The Teacher Health and Wellness Act will take important steps to ensure we are delivering the support our educators need to care for themselves and serve our students.”
The Teacher Health and Wellness Act is cosponsored by Rep. Darren Soto (D-FL) and endorsed by the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, American Federation of Teachers, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, American Psychological Association, Autistic Self Advocacy Network, Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, Council of Administrators of Special Education, International OCD Foundation, National Association of Social Workers, National Center for Learning Disabilities, National Education Association, Public Education & Business Coalition, The Arc, The Kennedy Forum, and the University of California System.
A consistent advocate for improving mental health care, Porter has repeatedly urged her colleagues on both sides of the aisle to better protect young people struggling with mental health issues. She has praised Orange County schools for prioritizing the mental health needs of students, and she wrote legislation that was signed into law last year to improve mental health coverage for public servants, including public school teachers, firefighters, and police. Her bill to crack down on insurers that fail to cover mental health services the same as physical health services was signed into law in 2020.