Big Ten students advocate for mental health legislation reform

Jonah Dylan, Reporter

The Association of Big Ten Students launched a one-day initiative Monday that aimed to encourage students at Big Ten universities to push Congress to pass legislation increasing resources for mental health patients.

Medill junior Ross Krasner, director of public relations for ABTS, said mental health problems are an issue in college campuses across the country.

“It’s important that we make sure that students especially have access to all the resources possible,” said Krasner, who also serves as vice president of community relations for Associated Student Government.

The initiative, called “Mental Health Monday,” advocates two bills — if passed, one would improve national mental health services, and the other would improve services provided on university and college campuses.

In July, the House of Representatives passed a bill that aims to create a new assistant secretary for mental health and substance abuse disorders in the Department of Health and Human Services. It also calls for the expansion of mental health resources and training. The bill has not been written into law yet.

University of Iowa student body president Rachel Zuckerman helped raise awareness of this initiative through ABTS. Zuckerman said the association lets students lobby a variety of congresspeople, as opposed to only lobbying people from one state.

“This is not something one school could do on its own,” Zuckerman said. “We could maybe lobby our own congressional representative, but we can’t on our own make a big national impact, so we’re working through ABTS to affect multiple congresspeople.”

Part of the initiative is a social media campaign with the hashtag #UnitedForMentalHealth, which students have been using to raise awareness about the issue, said Indiana University student body president Sara Zaheer, who also helped raise awareness for the initiative through ABTS.

Zaheer said she’s happy with the support she’s seen for “Mental Health Monday” so far.

“It’s one thing for us to beg each other to post it,” Zaheer said. “But when I checked the hashtag I saw faces I didn’t recognize and names I didn’t recognize, and to me that meant that more people were seeing it and cared.”

Krasner said though ASG has done its part to work on mental health reforms at Northwestern, it’s important to think nationally as well. He said mental health needs to be a “national priority.”

Zaheer said it’s important for ATBS to advocate for the vast array of students it represents.

“In the Big Ten, we represent about half a million students, which is really powerful,” she said. “We wanted to be able to leverage all of that student support.”

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