FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 7, 2019
PROVIDENCE, RI -- More than 150 leaders from state government, public and private institutions of higher education, and national and local organizations focused on mental health convened today at the inaugural Summit on Supporting the Mental Health Needs of Postsecondary Students in Rhode Island. Governor Gina M. Raimondo called for the summit to help identify opportunities and strategies for collaboration among the counseling centers on Rhode Island’s college campuses.
“For too long, mental health challenges have not gotten the attention they deserve,” said Governor Raimondo. “College can be an especially stressful time for many young people, and we need to make sure they have access to necessary mental health support. This summit is an important step towards improving mental health services on our campuses.”
Based on the current landscape of mental health needs and services in the state, a series of panels at the summit highlighted student mental health needs, common institutional challenges, and effective practices working on Rhode Island campuses.
The Honorable Patrick J. Kennedy and his wife Amy L. Kennedy, longtime mental health advocates, gave a closing keynote address.
“As the need for mental health services grows, so too does public awareness -- thanks to events like today’s summit,” said Patrick Kennedy, former Rhode Island Congressman and founder of The Kennedy Forum, which unites mental health advocates, business leaders, and government agencies to transform mental health and addiction care delivery. “I’m grateful for Governor Raimondo’s leadership, and I’m encouraged by Rhode Island’s cross-sector collaboration and commitment to supporting students’ mental health needs.”
According to the state’s most recent survey data, among young adult Rhode Islanders ages 18-25, approximately 18% reported having a substance abuse disorder, 11% reported a major depressive episode lasting at least two weeks, and 10% reported having serious thoughts of suicide in the past year. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for Rhode Islanders ages 15 to 34.
“Our postsecondary counseling center directors will tell you that the need for mental health support services is great, and growing,” said Brenda Dann-Messier, RI Commissioner of Postsecondary Education. “The statistics, and the anecdotes we hear from our friends, neighbors, and colleagues alarm us all. In planning this summit, we have built a coalition that will continue to strengthen the ways we support students’ mental health.”
All of the state’s 11 public and private postsecondary institutions had a hand in planning the event, together with several state agencies and the advice of local and national experts.
For speaker biographies and links to mental health resources, visit www.bit.ly/psmentalhealth.