The result of a bi-partisan effort, the legislation was unanimously adopted by the U.S. Senate (twice) and supported overwhelmingly in the U.S. House of Representatives. The Smith Act provides support for youth suicide early intervention and prevention programs, technical assistance centers for suicide prevention, and mental and behavioral services on campuses. Most significantly, this legislation serves as an important launching point for a long overdue discussion on what are the best means, strategies and solutions for addressing the mental and behavioral health needs of our college-aged youth.
The American Psychological Association worked with members of Congress on the Campus Care and Counseling Act, which was included in the Smith Act and contains a broad variety of options and strategies aimed at addressing the wide range of problems faced by students.
“Research has shown that more students are coming to college with mental health concerns than ever before,” said Linda Lauffenburger, Wittenberg’s director of student counseling. “Colleges and universities have been overwhelmed with the demands of students experiencing mental health concerns.”
Lauffenburger, a licensed social worker and certified chemical dependency counselor, said the additional funds generated by The Smith Act can help expand Wittenberg’s current services, including the many prevention efforts offered for alcohol, drug, tobacco, violence, sexual assault prevention, depression and other health issues campus-wide. Ideally, she would like to see additional resources, such as a formal suicide prevention campaign on campus, established as a result of the funding and additional support for higher education, prevention and counseling The Smith Act may provide.
“Many students feel their problems are unique to only them. Education and prevention efforts can help them identify what they are experiencing and what resources are available to help,” she said.
Academic failure on college campuses, which is often associated with mental or behavioral problems, not only results in personal loss, but also loss in federal investment (student financial assistance) as well. In the most severe cases, unaddressed psychological problems can lead to depression and even suicide - a loss that can never be measured.
Wittenberg has formed a formal network facilitated by key administrators designed to identify high-risk students and provide early assistance in order to help them reach their full potential.
The scope of mental and behavioral health problems on campuses today is significant. According to a survey described in the Chronicle of Higher Education (Feb.1, 2002), depression among freshmen has nearly doubled (from 8.2 percent to 16.3 percent) in just one year. Without treatment, research shows that depressed adolescents are at risk for school failure, social isolation, promiscuity, self-medication with drugs and alcohol and suicide. Suicide is now the third leading cause of death among 10-24 year olds.
“Passage of The Smith Act is a start in the right direction and counselors should be encouraged to take the next steps toward designing innovative programs to help our students thrive in the college experience,” Lauffenburger said.
Wittenberg’s health and wellness center can be reached by calling (937) 327-7811.
[an error occurred while processing this directive]
• Book-Delivering Prof Named Ohio Professor of the Year
• Senior Class Selects Livestrong President & CEO Doug Ulman As 2011 Commencement Speaker
•Communication Program Honored Nationally With Top Award
• Wittenberg University Art Students Finalists For Scholarship Award