Rep. Watson Coleman Introduces Bipartisan Bicameral Legislation to Improve Youth Mental Health Outcomes
Today, Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12) announced the introduction of the bipartisan, bicameral Youth Mental Health Research Act. This legislation will create a national Youth Mental Health Research Initiative to guide long-term mental health recovery efforts, better target preventive interventions for those at risk of developing mental health challenges, and improve treatments for children.
"Mental healthcare is essential care. The crisis of youth mental health struggles existed well before the onset of the COVID-19 crisis but has intensified as so many of our young people have lost friends and family members,” said Watson Coleman. “We have an obligation to ensure a generation of young people receive the help they need. The Youth Mental Health Research Act will help coordinate and encourage collaboration among national research institutes and others to support research in youth mental health that will also focus on social, behavioral, cognitive, and developmental research, while also improving the targeting and delivery of mental health intervention in clinical and community settings, getting care to children where they are. I'm grateful to Senator Klobuchar for her deep commitment to this cause."
“Nearly 20 percent of our youth face a mental health disorder,” said Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-01). “I am grateful to work with my colleagues on this bipartisan, bicameral bill to boost research into youth mental health and ensure that resources are more readily available.”
“We have come a long way in making mental health a priority, but it remains underfunded, misunderstood, and still affects millions across the country,” said Rep. Grace Napolitano (CA-31). “The Youth Mental Health Research Act will better inform professionals, our communities, and our fellow lawmakers so we can better address the critical needs of our nation’s youth, regardless of zip code or socioeconomic status. I am proud to join Senator Klobuchar, Congresswoman Watson Coleman, and all of our colleagues in introducing this stigma-reducing legislation, as we continue to fight for increased access and availability of life-saving mental health services for our constituents.”
“The United States is experiencing an unprecedented youth mental health crisis,” said Rep. Thomas Kean Jr. (NJ-7). “Youth mental health is the cornerstone of a brighter future. I am proud to cosponsor this bipartisan bill so we can invest the proper research into youth mental health, which will result in a better future for children of today and tomorrow.”
Companion legislation is led in the Senate by Senators Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Katie Britt of Alabama.
“Over the past few years, a rising number of young people have experienced mental health challenges. To understand how we can best support them, we must assess the scope of this youth mental health crisis and take steps to promote recovery and healing,” said Klobuchar. “Our bipartisan legislation would create a national research initiative to develop evidence-based mental health resources and treatments to address this crisis and ensure young people have the support they need.”
“As the United States contends with a devastating, growing youth mental health crisis, it is more important now than ever that we take meaningful action to protect our nation’s children. Last year, one in three high school girls said that they considered suicide, and almost one in 10 high school students reported actually attempting suicide in the previous 12 months. As a mom, I am proud to introduce this legislation that would support critical research and enable evidence-based solutions to this generational challenge. I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to preserve the American Dream for generations to come,” said Britt.
Specifically, the Youth Mental Health Research Act will:
- Allow the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) and the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD) to partner on fundamental and applied research to improve youth mental health;
- Support social, behavioral, cognitive, and developmental research to increase tools to identify, support, and best care for young people at-risk and those in crisis;
- Help coordinate research to improve targeting and delivery of mental health interventions in clinical and community settings where young people live, play, work and learn.
In December 2021, the U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy issued an advisory on protecting youth mental health calling attention to the national crisis of youth mental health and well-being. Last year, over 2.5 million youth in the U.S. had severe major depression. In 2021, more than 1 in 5 students seriously considered attempting suicide.
The Youth Mental Health Research Act is endorsed by the American Psychological Association Services, Inc.; American Psychiatric Association; American Association for Community Psychiatry; American Anthropological Association; American Foundation for Suicide Prevention; Children’s Hospital Association; Crisis Text Line; Federation of Associations in Behavioral and Brain Sciences (FABBS); Mental Health America; Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide; Society of Research in Child Development; McSilver Institute; University of Rochester Medical Center; Boris L. Henson Foundation; The Steve Fund; Promly; Vibrant; and Wise Chipmunk.
“We’ve heard from congressional leaders, the Administration, the CDC, the Surgeon General and, APA hears from its members every day, about the serious crisis in youth mental health. Science will be critical for leading the way out. This bipartisan bill will tap the deep expertise in three NIH institutes to develop new knowledge and tools to better prevent and treat mental health disorders in youth, especially for the groups that are most at risk. We thank Senators Klobuchar and Britt, and Representatives Fitzpatrick, Watson Coleman, Kean and Napolitano, the leaders of this bill, for making this research a priority,” said Arthur C. Evans, PhD, CEO, American Psychological Association Services Inc.
“Youth and young adults’ mental health is in crisis. Suicide continues to be a leading cause of death for youth ages 10-24, and according to the CDC’s 2021 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, over 40 percent of high school students reported struggling with persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness,” said Laurel Stine, J.D., M.A., Executive Vice President and Chief Policy Officer at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. “AFSP is proud to endorse the Youth Mental Health Research Act, which will make significant investments for the National Institute of Health to explore collaborative solutions to the youth mental health crisis, including research to improve the targeting and delivery of critical mental health interventions that help protect against suicide.”
“We share their commitment to doing the work to address the current mental health crisis facing the youth of our nation and encourage all advocates, behavioral health professionals and communities to join them in support of this effort,” said American Association for Community Psychiatry President Dr. Altha Stewart.
“It has been two years since we declared children’s mental health a national emergency, and the challenges persist. Pediatric behavioral health professionals, schools, parents and communities need the best available tools to care for children – from prevention to therapies. This legislation would make urgently needed investments in children’s mental health research at NIH, facilitating the development and evaluation of evidence-based prevention and treatment methods to improve mental health outcomes for children and teens,” said Children’s Hospital Association President Amy Wimpey Knight.
The Youth Mental Health Research Act is cosponsored by Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-01), Grace Napolitano (CA-31), Thomas Kean, Jr. (NJ-07), Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC-At Large), David Trone (MD-06), Colin Allred (TX-32), Jonathan Jackson (IL-01), Jared Moskowitz (FL-23), Jasmine Crockett (TX-30), Andrea Salinas (OR-06), Barbara Lee (CA-12), Becca Balint (VT-At Large), Josh Harder (CA-09), Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18), Ritchie Torres (NY-15), Jamaal Bowman (NY-16), Kevin Mullin (CA-15), Madeleine Dean (PA-4), Raul Ruiz (CA-25), Troy Carter (LA-02), Brittany Pettersen (CO-07), Seth Magaziner (RI-02), Betty McCollum (MN-04), Nydia Velazquez (NY-07), Bennie Thompson (MS-02), Luis Correa (CA-46), and Josh Gottheimer (NJ-05).
The Youth Mental Health Research Act can be read here.