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Bilirakis Highlights Mental Health Needs of Children On Teen Mental Health Wellness Day

March 2, 2021
Press Release


Bilirakis Highlights Mental Health Needs of Children On Teen Mental Health Wellness Day

-Calls for Nationwide Reopening of Schools and Passage of Critical Legislation to Provide Intervention and Support-


Today is World Teen Mental Wellness Day. Sadly there has been a spike in mental health related problems in teens throughout the pandemic, especially in states where schools have remained closed for almost one year. The CDC, leading child health advocates and physicians say it is safe for schools to re-open and our own experience in Florida proves it can be done well. Yet many states have kept their classrooms closed.


Another way to support student mental health is through passage of the Suicide and Threat Assessment Nationally Dedicated to Universal Prevention (STAND-UP) Act.  This bipartisan legislation, co-authored by Congressman Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) and Representative Scott Peters (D-CA) encourages schools to implement evidence-based suicide prevention training for students in grades 6 through 12. There is no higher priority than keeping our children safe. By providing high quality screening and prevention training to school staff and peers, we can identify threats before they materialize, and ensure that those who are at risk get the mental health treatment they need. I’ve seen first-hand how effective these programs can be when I visited a high school in Pinellas which has already implemented these best practices. Sadly, some communities in my district are among those with the highest suicide rates in our state, and the pandemic has only exacerbated the problem. With training like this, we can help reverse that troubling trend,” said Rep. Bilirakis.


While studies are ongoing, new reports indicate that COVID-19 has exacerbated children’s and teens’ anxiety, depression and isolation – stressors commonly associated with suicide. Mental Health America recently identified that those 11 through 17 years old are now at higher risk of anxiety and depression. Their summer youth screening revealed a 14 percent increase in youth anxiety and a 10 percent increase in youth depression since their previous report. Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released 2020 data showing a 31 percent increase in mental health-related hospital visits in children aged 12-17 years compared to previous years.  “We must put politics aside and prioritize the needs of our children by re-opening schools nationwide and passing the STANDUP Act,” added Bilirakis. 


Note: If you know someone in crisis call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or text the Crisis Text Line (text HELLO to 741741). Both services are free and available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.