By Kendall Shamus, Staff Writer
Mental health awareness has become more prevalent in society since the COVID-19 Pandemic in 2020. Different organizations on campus have been and continue to take steps to help end the stigma around mental health and provide the campus community with resources in a time of crisis.
SGA Vice President and junior finance major Ailer Thomas explained how the LIU Post Student Government Association (SGA) is working with other student governments on Long Island to bring a Suicide Prevention Act to the New York State Legislature.
“There’s a bill that was in committee during the last legislative session, but didn’t make it out of committee,” Thomas said. “It’s called the Student Suicide Prevention Act. It’s a law that would require K-12 schools to adopt student suicide prevention policies. It also identifies at-risk individuals, including students whose family members may have committed suicide, students with mental health issues, as well as you know, if like a roommate or classmate committed suicide, how that should be approached by the university and by schools.”
This bill did not include colleges and universities. A student from Stony Brook University took it into his own hands to bring other colleges and universities together to have this implemented into higher education as well.
“This all started at Stony Brook with their USG, which is the equivalent of our SGA,” Thomas added. “A student named Vignesh brought this to different student governments on Long Island. This kind of came about because the Student Suicide Prevention Act for New York does not include colleges and universities or students above. So a Student Suicide Prevention Act has been passed in over 20 states, and Vignesh felt that it was something that should include college and university students the same way that the other bills in other states do. So he started a push for that and worked with that USG to make it happen. Now, he reached out to us as well as several others. I believe Stony Brook, Hofstra, Adelphi and several other student governments have already joined the push for this. We’re in contact with state legislatures, legislators and other political groups. This is kind of a bipartisan supported bill, but it hasn’t been out of committee…so we’re really putting the pressure on the legislators to let you know that this is something that’s important to us and we would like it to be brought to the floor and voted on and enacted.”
A benefit of the Suicide Prevention Act would be educating professors and staff to identify and report certain activities that would be like seen as high-risk. Then they have to also introduce mental health-like tools that are easily accessible to students. This would help both professors and administration become better equipped to serve students when in a time of need with mental health issues.
SGA President and senior business management major Christian Swidzinzki spoke about the bill.
“Mental health is always a huge issue,” Swidzinzki said. “Having those things, such as the Suicide Prevention Act, put in place to protect or help students with mental health issues is extremely important.”
Thomas spoke about how the issue of mental health has become more relevant in recent years.
“As a student, it’s been clear that since COVID, there’s been a significant decline in mental health of the whole society, but specifically students,” Thomas said. “I think that young people have been hit particularly hard by the pandemic, and by the responses to the pandemic, and it leaves a lot of people confused and uncertain. I think that a lot of students on this campus that I know personally have been significantly affected, whether significantly affected by suicide and mental health crisis, whether that’s having a close friend or family member commit suicide, or having close friends or family members with severe mental health crises, that seems to be more and more common than it ever was. And I think that this will, at a state level, help bring student suicide and student mental health into more of a conversation. This would help kind of from an institutional standpoint, and kind of help us standardize and promote a message that this is something that’s important and something that we really need to focus on.”
The Post SGA is hoping to continue collaborating on this with other local university student governments. This will only help the Post campus gain relationships with other colleges and universities to help resolve this issue and future issues.
“We’re looking to hopefully do an event at some point and we’re hoping to host it on our campus,” Swidzinzki said. “Basically, all the student governments will come and meet at an event to raise awareness for this bill and get the word out there. All students will be invited and it’ll be a way for us to spread awareness to state legislators and local legislators.