US lawmakers propose legislation to tackle mental health issues

(WFSB) – Mental health experts have warned that the COVID-19 pandemic put a major strain on America’s youth.

More than 40 percent of high school students reported feeling sad and hopeless.

As a result, Congress said it is trying to help by proposing a new bipartisan mental health bill.

In Connecticut, the state already saw more funding to deal with the problem.

Connecticut lawmakers recently earmarked $ 25 million for youth services, including more resources for mental health support.

However, the mental health issue is not just a problem in Connecticut. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned that it’s an epidemic around the country.

The latest data from the CDC showed that more than a third of high school students reported experiencing poor mental health during the pandemic, and 44-percent said they felt persistently sad or hopeless.

According to the CDC, attention-deficit / hyperactivity disorder, anxiety, depression, and behavior problems are the most commonly diagnosed mental disorders in kids. Among US children aged 12 to 17, one in five experienced a major depressive episode.

Congress is looking to help. Sens. Jacky Rosen of Nevada and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska introduced a bipartisan bill to provide federal funding to public schools to help students from kindergarten all the way to 12th grade deal with mental health issues.

Currently, that money only goes to colleges and universities. However, the senators believe society needs a renewed focus on helping younger kids deal with all-too-common problems.

“It’s been too many years since we’ve seen a really strong focus on mental health and behavioral health matters,” Murkowski said. “And, in my view, you can not separate the physical from the mental.”

“Well, you know, sadly, people have not been talking about mental health,” Rosen said. “There’s still a stigma around it. So, people suffer in silence, or they feel embarrassed or ashamed. ”

Many parents around the country said they are also concerned.

Child psychologist Jamie Howard said when talking kids about their mental health, parents should ask open ended questions and just continue to check in with them.

“With empathy and earnestness ask ‘so tell me what’s going on. I’ve noticed you have not been spending time with your friends, ‘or’ I noticed your grades are slipping, ‘and do not jump to reprimanding them but say’ What’s going on? ‘”Howard said.

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