Speaking of Education

Students at every level face joys and pressures associated with their learning and education, whether it is practicing their multiplication tables, writing book reports, taking midterms or waiting for college acceptance letters. Wearing hats as national leaders, educators or parents, we work collectively to pave a safe, continuous and successful educational path for our students.

Within APA's Education Directorate, we play a role in building and advancing educational pathways in a number of ways. We advance education and training in psychology as well as the application of psychology to education and training. And we seek to enhance educational opportunities for students by promoting the knowledge and expertise of psychologists and their research in hopes of having an impact on a larger scale. The Education Directorate is deeply engaged and invested in education and educational success through our Center for Psychology in Schools and Education and through the development of federal policy.

One example of our government relations efforts to promote a successful educational path for students is our advocacy for programs that bring attention to the mental and behavioral health needs of post-secondary students. For nearly a decade, the Education Directorate has engaged with the college and university counseling center community and Congress in these efforts. We have had bipartisan legislation — the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act — signed into law, and we have persuaded Congress to support suicide prevention initiatives in states, tribes and college counseling centers, including psychology training clinics. Since it became law in 2004, the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act has funded programs at 85 institutions in 40 states and 38 tribes to take meaningful action around mental health and suicide for our nation's youth.

Our nation has become more aware of the needs of our teen and young adult populations, as well as the challenges experienced by adult learners. We know too well of the recent tragedies that have occurred in schools, on campuses and in communities. As a result, there is a greater national focus on the mental and behavioral health risks to individuals, communities and our nation. We have been made acutely aware of the needs of individuals ages 16 to 25, understanding that this age group is at high risk for mental illness, substance abuse and suicide. And we know that they are among the least likely to seek help.

It is with gratitude that we acknowledge the good work of Sens. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), who reintroduced the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act Reauthorization of 2013 (S.116). These senators and their colleagues have looked closely at the research provided by directors of college counseling centers and consulted with experts from APA and other mental health organizations. They have listened to the voices in the field — the grassroots community — and they have worked collaboratively to write a bill that strengthens these important federal programs at a time when they are greatly needed and when the nation is paying attention. Through partnership and leadership, they are working to ensure that a student's post-secondary education path is not cut short or ended because of unaddressed mental health concerns.

The Education Directorate will do all we can to raise awareness about S.116. We will extend a hand and encourage our members to reach out to their senators to support this legislation. Please visit Education Government Relations Office to get involved and take action. The stakes are high, and we are ready to help build a path for students — one that is designed to help them succeed.