Academy Award-winning actress Goldie Hawn urged lawmakers to fund evidence-based school mental health programs to aid the one in 10 children who suffers from serious mental illness in the United States. At an APA-supported Capitol Hill briefing on May 7—National Children's Mental Health Awareness Day—Hawn pushed for Congress to reauthorize the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, which funds effective school- and community-based mental health programs, such as the Safe Schools/Healthy Students Program.
"If we don't tend to our children's mental health issues now, we will feel them later," said Hawn, a longtime advocate for children's mental health.
Her nonprofit group, The Hawn Foundation, teaches children in grades K–7 with social and emotional problems how to reduce their stress and anxiety, sharpen their concentration and build confidence.
"Our children may only be a fraction of our population now, but they represent 100 percent of our future," she said.
Fellow speaker A. Kathryn Power, who directs the Center for Mental Health Services at SAMHSA, specifically called for funding programs that link schools to communities. She unveiled new data showing that when schools partnered with community mental health services for just 12 months, the rates of depression and anxiety among students with mental health needs were reduced by 12 percent and suicide attempts dropped by 62 percent. "These supports are literally saving lives," said Power.
A New Hampshire school program is also showing promise, said Howard Muscott, EdD, who directs the state's Center for Effective Behavioral Interventions and Supports. A research-based program called Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports in 152 preschools in New Hampshire and several elementary and high schools nationwide is teaching students positive behaviors and ramping up services for students at risk for, or already exhibiting, severe mental health problems.
Muscott urged Congress to expand the program to other states by supporting the Mental Health in the Schools Act (H.R. 2531), which would provide $200 million to fund school-based mental health services in K–12 schools. APA's Public Interest Government Relations Office has been working with congressional staff to ensure that the legislation incorporates psychological research into sound policy.