Mental health hotline numbers will appear on California student ID card if bill is approved

Julie Leopo for EdSource

All community college and CSU student cards in California will list mental health hotlines if AB 2122 passes.

Three years after California mandated colleges to put suicide prevention phone numbers on all student ID cards, a group of college students wants to take student wellness one step further: by adding a 24-hour mental health hotline.

Assembly account 2122, introduced last month, would require all California State University community colleges and campuses to print a phone number on student identification cards for local mental health services, either through the city, county or university itself. The hotline would be optional for the University of California because the legislature has no authority over UC.

Most campuses already have mental health centers, but not all have a 24-hour emergency number. The bill encourages those without mental health centers to establish one and urges all campuses to establish mental health hotlines.

Thanks to Leo Corzo-Clark

Léo Corzo-Clark is a recent graduate of Albany High School in the East Bay.

“Mental health is often overlooked until it’s too late – students start to suffer from extreme burnout, withdrawal, falling grades. There’s so much schools can do to help students before they get to that point,” said Léo Corzo-Clark, a recent graduate of Albany High School in the East Bay who helped write the bill with his Generation Up colleagues. , a California student advocacy group. Councilor Steven Choi, R-Irvine, sponsored the bill.

The Assembly Committee for Higher Education will consider the bill on Tuesday. It follows two other student welfare bills – SB 972requiring high schools and colleges to print a suicide hotline on ID cards, and SB 316which puts domestic violence hotlines on student ID cards — which have been passed in recent years, along with a slew of legislation related to student mental health in general.

California State University, which is not opposed to the bill, has massively expanded its student mental health services since the start of the pandemic two years ago. Each of the 23 campuses provides counseling services for students in person and online, and a $15 million state grant allows each campus to hire more consultants and other staff to meet escalating needs.

Student mental health declined long before the pandemic due to economic insecurity, social injustice, an increase in community violence, climate change and other issues, but accelerated as Covid forced the closure of school campuses and increased social isolation. A recent report of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that more than 44% of high school students experienced lingering feelings of sadness or hopelessness last year, and 9% had attempted suicide. According to Boston College researchers, whose work was published in the journal Translational Behavioral Medicine, more than 60% of college students and young adults said they experienced severe anxiety and depression during the pandemic.

Kimberly Woo is a student at UC Berkeley.

Kimberly Woo, a junior at UC Berkeley who helped write AB 2122, said she was so depressed in her freshman year that she often couldn’t get out of bed. She felt social anxiety when meeting new people and was overwhelmed by the stress of school and being away from home. She says she tried to contact the mental health center on campus, but the staff never called back. Her frustration drove her to get involved with AB 2122.

“My experience was not unique. Many students have psychological problems and there are too few therapists,” she says. “I want to make sure mental health resources are accessible to the point where they’re literally in students’ back pockets.”

Councilor Choi, vice chair of the Assembly Higher Education Committee and former Irvine Unified school board member, said student mental health is one of his priorities.

“What we already knew was only further emphasized by the pandemic of the past two years: young people suffer from mental health problems far too often and may not seek help even when resources are available,” Choi said. “I know my bill would be an important step in ensuring our students get the health care they need.”

AB 2122 is one of several bills related to K-12 schools and higher education that have helped Generation Up students write this year. AB2683the only other bill affecting colleges would require colleges to educate students about how to avoid sexual harassment and violence.

Three bills pertain to K-12 schools: SB 955 would require schools to apologize to students for absences related to political or community involvement, such as attending a protest, voting, or volunteering as a polling officer. SB 997 encourage student representation on board committees. SB1236 would give full voting rights to student members of school boards.

Alvin Lee, one of the founders of Generation Up, said his group came up with the ideas after interviewing thousands of students across California about their needs and priorities. Mental health and political empowerment were the top concerns, he said. He and his colleagues chose these particular ideas because they could benefit many students, cost very little, and are not particularly controversial.

“We see these as simple, straightforward ways to make a big impact,” said Lee, a student at Claremont McKenna College. “Mental health is especially critical as it is the foundation of a student’s well-being. They cannot concentrate and thrive in a learning environment unless they feel mentally well.”

Corzo-Clark, who is now a freshman at Brown University in Rhode Island, said he decided to defend AB 2122 after hearing from so many students about their difficulties finding mental health services, even as life was cut during the pandemic. increasingly stressful. He also heard students say they sometimes shy away from seeking help because of stigma associated with mental health issues.

“I would like to see this bill signed into law. But introducing the bill is one way to start a conversation and let the legislature know that this is a priority for students,” Corzo-Clark said. “Students say, ‘This is what we need.’ †

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