Rep. Peters Leads Letter Urging Greater Mental Health, Suicide Prevention Resources During COVID Crisis
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Rep. Scott Peters (CA-52), Rep. Gus Bilirakis (FL-12), Rep. Eliot Engel (NY-16), Rep. John Katko (NY-24), Rep. Paul Tonko (NY-20), Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-01) and 49 of their colleagues sent a letter to House leadership urging for increased support prioritizing the mental health of the American public during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
The bipartisan group of lawmakers requested greater investment in mental health resources and suicide prevention efforts given the unprecedented public health crisis and growing cases of economic insecurity – two stressors linked to mental health challenges and heightened risk of suicide.
The letter advocated for the incorporation of critical provisions in future coronavirus response and recovery packages that would help address the mental health challenges associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, like enhanced funding for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (NSPL) and inclusion of the Effective Suicide Screening and Assessment in the Emergency Department Act, which would assist emergency departments to develop better suicide risk protocols.
“We must support our nation’s system of crisis response services, fortify our emergency departments to adequately respond to self-harm, and prepare schools to address the mental health needs of children upon their return in the fall,” the legislators wrote.
With rising concerns as to the effect COVID-19 will have on the mental health of one of our country’s most vulnerable populations, children and adolescents, the members also pushed for the inclusion of Rep. Peters’ bill, the Suicide Training and Awareness Nationally Delivered for Universal Prevention (STANDUP) Act, which would provide schools with best practices and technical assistance on student suicide prevention. Suicide is the second-leading cause of death for youth, and the coronavirus pandemic has increased youth anxiety.
"At a time when we are seeing a rise in the mental health needs of our students, we urge Congress to act to prevent further tragedies before they happen. We know we can protect children from violence and suicide by teaching them to know the signs and how to act to get help. Response to this pandemic must include the STANDUP Act and suicide prevention policies that address the rise in social isolation and threats of suicidal ideation facing our students,” said Mark Barden, co-founder and managing director of Sandy Hook Promise, and father of Daniel, who was killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary school tragedy.
In March, Rep. Peters joined Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy, III (MA-04) and Rep. Doris Matsui (CA-06) in helping Rep. Tonko lead a letter calling to ensure the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act addressed the mounting burden being placed on the nation’s mental health.