Today, on National Children's Mental Health Awareness Day, Rep. Grace F. Napolitano was joined by professional singer/dancer Mark Ballas of Dancing with the Stars and former female world boxing champion and mental health advocate Mia St. John in calling for support for HR 751, the Mental Health in Schools Act.
"Millions of children and adolescents are struggling with mental health issues all across our country," Napolitano said. "By making mental health resources available in more of our schools, we will be better able to prevent the depression, crime, drug use, and suicide that can occur when children are denied help. Our young people need us to stand up and demand support for mental health services."
"Suicide is the third leading cause of death among young people ages 10-24," Mark Ballas said. "We need to teach kids to seek help for their problems and not be stopped by the stigma of mental heath issues."
"Implementing mental health programs in our schools should be a priority," Mia St. John said. "Kids need a safe place to go and talk about mental health issues, and I believe that starts in our schools."
One out of five children and adolescents in the United States suffers from some form of mental illness. The majority will experience their first symptoms by age 14, but less than half will have access to treatment or professional help. Suicide is currently the third leading cause of death for youth people ages 10-24 (Center for Disease Control, 2009).
Studies have shown that emotional problems decrease and attendance and grades increase for student populations when they have access to mental health services (SAMHSA report).
H.R. 751, the Mental Health in Schools Act, is a bill by Napolitano which would create grant funding for schools across the country to partner with local nonprofits to provide on-site, culturally and linguistically appropriate mental health services for students. It has earned the support of 52 members of Congress and mental health organizations from across the country, including the American Psychological Association, Mental Health America, and the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).
Ballas lost his Uncle David to suicide in 2003. He later established the Ballas Foundation with his mother, professional dancer and leading dance coach Shirley Ballas, to raise awareness about suicide and mental illness.
St. John learned to manage her own mental health issues on the road to becoming a female world boxing champion. She is now the founder of her mental health organization El Saber Es Poder/Knowledge is Power.
Ballas and St. John are members of Rep. Napolitano's Mental Health in Schools Act Task Force, a group of celebrities and accomplished individuals who work with Napolitano to promote mental health legislation.
Napolitano is the Co-Chair of the Congressional Mental Health Caucus, and has helped establish suicide prevention programs in more than a dozen L.A. County schools over the last ten years.
To learn more about the Mental Health in Schools Act, visit http://napolitano.house.gov/legislative-work/mental-health-schools-act
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number: 1-800-274-TALK (8255)