Assembly lawmakers seek to address mental health needs of college students

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ALBANY, NY (WENY) – At an Assembly hearing Wednesday, lawmakers heard from education and mental health experts about the mental health needs of college students, including growing peer counseling and expanding the availability and access of services.

“The challenges that many of our student’s face are severe. Some are emotional, some are financial, and some are academic,” said Cheryl Hamilton, Student Advocate and Executive Director of Educational Opportunity Programs at SUNY.

Hamilton added that since the start of the pandemic increased feelings of fear, anxiety, and depression have been highly present among students. According to a recent Health Minds study, in 2020-2021 school year, over 60% of surveyed college students met the criteria for at least one mental health problem.

Some in the hearing highlighted that telehealth services proved to be very beneficial for students but some students struggle to find a quiet and private space to engage in telehealth.

“I know my child doesn’t want to do it in their dorm room with their roommate there or on their floor or in the library to have a private telehealth visit,” said Assembly Member Harvey Epstein.

Epstein suggested that higher education institutions implement telehealth rooms that students can sign out times for.

Ann Marie T. Sullivan, Commissioner of the New York State Office of Mental Health responded there are guidelines to tackle these challenges well defined for high schools and elementary schools but not as well defined for college campuses.

But the Commissioner said they are working on this.

“And there’s an openness now to do this, I think because of the pandemic, that there really wasn’t before,” she said.


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