New Mental Health Bill Now Law
By Lorri Grainawi, Mental Health Specialist
The Mussman-backed House Bill 3404, which was recently signed into law by Gov. J.B. Pritzker, is an initiative to promote awareness of all mental health and suicide prevention services offered on campus readily accessible to students.
“Mental health is just as important as physical health,” state Rep. Michelle Mussman, D-Schaumburg, said. “College can be a difficult transition period for young adults, and without clear places to turn to for mental health wellness resources, students might not seek the help that they need.”
“Unchecked mental health problems are one of the biggest threats to students,” Mussman said. “This legislation will ensure that colleges and universities are actively promoting the mental health and wellness resources available on campus. Any measure that we can take to prevent the loss of even one life to suicide will make this bill worth it.”
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed a new law last week requiring a parent or designated advocate be present when a student is questioned in connection with a crime on school grounds. This law was passed after the death of a 16-year-old boy, Corey Walgreen, after being questioned by police at school.
John Duffy, a clinical psychologist, also lost his brother his to suicide. “They (kids) don’t have the ability to say, ‘I’ve gotten past so many things, I know I’ll get past this too,’” Duffy said. “Experience is the only thing that really teaches you that. Even if you hear other people’s stories. Knowing 16-year-olds? They don’t really buy other people’s stories. They feel like, ‘Yeah, that’s your story. But mine’s different. I’m doomed.’ They only know this moment, and this moment feels horrible.”
So what's the next step? One possibility is a requirement for mental health education in schools. NAMI, the National Alliance for Mental Health, already has a program in place in which volunteers give free classes to students in junior high and high school. These classes give students basic information about symptoms, treatment options, but most importantly let students know that it's ok not to be ok. Seek help if you need it; talk about it. Stigma is the biggest obstacle in getting help, so the more we talk about mental health, the easier it will get.