Lawmakers set to vote on bills to address mental health issues among New Jersey students

It comes just weeks after a 14-year-old Central Regional High School student died by suicide after she was bullied and attacked.

News 12 Staff

Feb 23, 2023, 1:26 AM

Updated 419 days ago

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Student mental health is expected to be in the spotlight when state lawmakers debate on some education bills on Thursday.
It comes just weeks after a 14-year-old Central Regional High School student died by suicide after she was bullied and attacked.
Adriana Kuch’s death sent shockwaves through the state, and now some lawmakers are pushing for a suicide task force, lessons about grief and days off from school for mental health reasons.
But some of these proposals are raising questions.
"I'm a little worried about setting up a separate class because I'm concerned there might be the unintended consequence of stigmatizing,” says Bob Davison, CEO of the Mental Health Association of North Jersey.
He does say that it is a positive thing that lawmakers are trying to address mental health in schools.
Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention regarding suicide are raising some concerns. Nearly 60% of high school girls have reported feeling sad or hopeless. This is up from about 40% 10 years ago. About 30% of high school boys have reported feeling the same, up from 20%.
Some officials say that the COVID-19 pandemic and associated school restrictions bear much of the blame.
The Mental Health Association in North Jersey says it saw a 20% increase in teens needing help with depression and anxiety. Davison says those numbers are coming down as life returns to normal. He says it shows that this generation is resilient.
"There's a narrative out there that we're dealing with a lost generation. I don't buy that for a minute. I think we have a generation that needs additional assistance and support,” he says.
He says this will take a societal effort.
New Jersey state Sen. Joe Cryan is helping to push this topic in Trenton with absences for mental health and adding grief counseling to the curriculum.
"I'd like to see us at least acknowledge the fact that death is part of life but it’s a more difficult part for young people that are assessing their place in life and who they are or where they're going,” he says.
Lawmakers are expected to vote on some of these bills on Thursday.


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