College Students Renew Call for Passage of Rep. Mirra’s Proposed Mental Health Commission

State Rep. Leonard Mirra. (WHAV News file photograph.)

An organization representing Boston-area undergraduates is marking Mental Illness Awareness week by asking top lawmakers to pass Rep. Lenny Mirra’s bill creating a commission on suicide prevention and mental health crisis management. They first seek to make sure that panel would take college students’ needs into account.

The Boston Intercollegiate Government, a coalition of undergraduate student governments, testified at a July hearing in support of Mirra’s bill, but the proposed legislation remains before the Mental Health, Substance Use and Recovery Committee. BIG’s chairman, Dennis Wieboldt III of Boston College, and assistant director of governmental affairs, Zachary Greenwald of Northeastern University, wrote to House Speaker Ronald Mariano and Senate President Karen Spilka Thursday, reiterating the group’s call to pass an amended version of the bill.

“Massachusetts has a very large population of college-aged students. This population, however, has particular mental healthcare needs, especially in light of COVID-19,” their letter said. “Once amended, this legislation will help to ensure that this population is not overlooked by the Commonwealth.”

In its July testimony, BIG cited a summer 2020 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report on mental health, substance use and suicidal ideation during the COVID-19 pandemic, which found that 25.5% of respondents aged 18 to 24 “reported having seriously considered suicide in the 30 days before completing the survey.”

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