Mental health summit highlights growing student needs

Health experts call it a crisis.

“People who may not have struggled before entering college can really struggle to make the transition,” said Elizabeth Byrnes, a student at Siena College.

Middle school students struggle to maintain good mental health.

“Some other issues still linger from the pandemic,” Byrnes said. “I think there’s a lot of social anxiety around interacting with faculty, staff, and other peers.”

Last year, Byrnes founded Active Minds.

“There really was a need for this on our campus,” she said. “We were in a very vulnerable state.”

He is part of a national non-profit organization dedicated to raising awareness and educating young adults about mental health.

“I thought students deserved to have a place to express what they wanted and needed,” she said.

Byrnes represented the group at a mental health summit held Friday on campus.

“As mental health advocates, we want to better understand the problem,” said John Richter, director of public policy for the New York State Mental Health Association.

MHANYS has brought together experts, academic associations from across the state, and mental health advocates to highlight the most pressing issues.

“Sixty percent of students now meet the criteria for one or more mental illnesses,” Richter said.

According to the organization, depression among young people has increased by 135% between 2013 and last year, and anxiety has increased by around 110%.

“There’s less stigma about it,” Richter said. “People talk about it more openly. People are more willing to seek help.

The summit was an opportunity for stakeholders from diverse backgrounds to connect and determine the best course of action moving forward.

“We can work together on legislation we agree on because we understand each other better,” Richter said.

Byrnes described it as a proud moment, having done it on his campus and giving him the opportunity to highlight the success of Active Minds.

“We currently have about 270 students on the mailing list,” she said. “A lot of students are interested in getting involved and having these critical conversations. It’s changed the culture on campus here.

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