Suicide is the second leading cause of death on college campuses. New Jersey legislators are working to change that, USA Today reported Saturday. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signed a suicide prevention bill into law on August 1. The Madison Holleran Suicide Prevention Act requires colleges and universities in the state to provide students with mental health care.
Within 90 days, New Jersey’s colleges must provide 24/7 mental health counseling. Counseling can be available to students over the phone or in person. According to the law, students must be able to reach professionals with, “...training and experience in mental health issues who focus on reducing student suicides and attempted suicides.” Access to mental health care could be vital for those at risk. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, roughly 90 percent of those who die by suicide suffer from mental illness.
“I think this law will have a positive impact. It ensures that college students have access to mental health care in emergencies which may save lives,” Calvin Chin said. Chin is Princeton’s director of counseling and psychological services.
The law is named for Madison Holleran, a New Jersey 19-year-old. Holleran was a freshman at the University of Pennsylvania in 2014 when she took her own life. Her parents and community created a petition for a suicide prevention bill. State Sen. Kevin O’Toole sponsored the bill in New Jersey's state legislature. “We really did not find a lot of other laws or programs out there like this one,” O’Toole’s chief of staff Al Barlas said. Ohio and Texas have similar laws in place but don’t mandate that colleges provide 24/7 care.
Yet some students feel that colleges should address mental health before students are in crisis. “The law is great and addresses a symptom, but I would really like to see more programs at colleges that address the underlying need,” Princeton junior Katherine Frain said. “We have a lot of problems in this country with overpressure of students on highly competitive academic campuses.”
If you or someone you know is in crisis, help is available. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK or chat with a trained volunteer at IMAlive.com.
Lead Image Credit: Ian Kennedy via Flickr Creative Commons