Education SPEAKING OF
Promoting mental health
for success in college
BY DR. CYNTHIA BELAR • APA EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR FOR 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 (see www.apa.org/ed/schools/index.aspx)
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
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.
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 www.apa.org/about/gr/education/index.
aspx 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. n