May is Mental Health Awareness Month, an issue I hear about often from Granite Staters of all ages.
But in the last year or so, it is predominantly young people who raise their concerns about their friends and family who are experiencing feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and depression. Their sense of urgency is palpable and appropriate, and their willingness to attack the stigma long attached to mental illness is making a big difference as we work to address this problem.
I have been struck by my conversations with students — many of them have a friend or a family member or a classmate who has experienced serious mental health challenges or even died by suicide. They are worried about themselves and their friends, but thankfully, unlike my generation, they have no inhibitions about talking about mental health. By speaking out, they have helped to create a sense of urgency and have elevated the issue of access to quality, affordable mental health care to the forefront of our national public health discourse.
Despite the difficulty of talking about deeply personal and difficult feelings and events, our children, teenagers, and young adults are pushing us forward. Thanks to their courage and bravery, we are now talking about mental health in a way that even a few years ago was unimaginable. And as important as these conversations are, advocates are making clear that we have to do more than talk. As a result of their advocacy, the federal government is now investing in more resources — in mental health resources accessible through the overall health care system to be sure — but also to equip our teachers and counselors with additional ways to support young people and to continue breaking down the stigma about mental illness that has, in the past, pushed the issue into the shadows. Thanks to young people speaking up, more people than ever see mental health conditions as very real health care concerns, and understand that mental illness must be treated just as any other health problem should be. Mental health is part of our overall health and is essential to our physical and emotional wellbeing.
I have hosted roundtables with students, educators, mental health professionals, and suicide prevention advocates from across our state. Among the many steps that they have recommended we take to tackle our mental health crisis, they have shared with me the need for greater funding to recruit, train, and hire mental health professionals to work in schools and communities across the state and our entire country. As a mom, citizen, and senator, I wholeheartedly agree and am fighting for mental health awareness and additional resources to address these pressing needs.
And some of our action steps are underway. Through a collaborative effort, we are establishing a new hotline in New Hampshire and across the country that is set to go live in July, so that Americans in crisis will be able to seek support immediately via a text or call to 9–8–8. We have also worked across party lines to sign into law my STAND UP Act to help prevent youth suicide and strengthen mental health supports in our schools.
But, while these steps are crucial, we have more work to do. I will continue working to expand access to mental health services in the Granite State and across our country.
And in the meantime, if you or someone you care about are experiencing a mental health crisis, you can call and speak to compassionate providers from mental health centers at 1–833–710–6477.
Let’s all be kind and support each other.
With every good wish,