WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), and Congresswomen Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) and Susan Wild (D-PA) introduced bipartisan legislation to increase access to mental health resources for educators and school staff.
The Supporting the Mental Health of Educators and Staff Act will help address mental health challenges that have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, growing teacher shortages, increasingly unfavorable working conditions, and rising community-wide trauma. Educators – particularly those working in underserved schools – have left the teaching profession in record numbers, citing burnout, stress, low pay, and limited resources for mental health care as primary reasons for transitioning to a new career.
“Teachers and school staff are the backbone of our education system, helping our schools flourish, and they deserve to have mental health resources readily available,” said Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick. “These individuals work tirelessly for our children and communities, and I’m proud to co-sponsor this legislation that gives them increased support.”
“Educators and support staff keep our classrooms running, manage school activities, and help shape the futures of our nation’s children,” said Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici. “Unfortunately, too often they are in challenging situations without access to mental health care. At a time when many teachers and staff are at a breaking point, we must make tangible improvements to support them in their work. I developed the Supporting the Mental Health of Educators and Staff Act with input from many educators and advocates, and I am pleased to introduce this bipartisan legislation with Representatives Fitzpatrick and Wild.”
“Educators do the incredible and too often thankless work of looking out for our children, helping them to learn and grow – so it’s high time we’re looking out for our educators, too,” said Congresswoman Susan Wild. “That’s why I’m so proud to co-sponsor this bipartisan legislation to expand mental health resources for the dedicated, hardworking teachers, whose impact on our children’s lives is immeasurable.”
The legislation has been endorsed by: American Federation of Teachers (AFT); National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI); AASA, The School Superintendents Association; National Council for Mental Wellbeing; National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP); National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP); American Psychological Association; Teach Plus; Happy Teacher Revolution; Teach For America; The Education Trust; New Leaders; National Council on Teacher Quality.
“This act would greatly improve school leader ability to address unique mental health needs, allowing them and their staff to remain serving our kids to the best of their ability,” said National Association of Secondary School Principals CEO Ronn Nozoe. “This act would provide school leaders with essential tools needed to promote and cultivate educator mental wellbeing. NASSP is prepared to work with Representative Bonamici to advance this legislation.”
“NAESP is proud to endorse the Supporting the Mental Health of Educators and Staff Act,” said National Association of Elementary School Principals Executive Director L. Earl Franks, Ed.D., CAE. “As school leaders work tirelessly to address the mental well-being of their students, it is important to consider and to support the mental health of those who work in schools as well. Educators can both practice and model self-care strategies to promote their own mental health—and benefit their students as well. We commend Congresswoman Bonamici for taking the lead on this urgent challenge and look forward to working with her and other congressional supporters to pass this legislation.”
The Supporting the Mental Health of Educators and Staff Act will increase access to critical resources by designing and scaling up evidence-based approaches to addressing the mental health needs of the education workforce across the United States. It will:
- Require coordination between federal agencies to develop best practices for (1) preventing suicide and improving mental health and resiliency among education professionals; and (2) training education professionals in appropriate strategies to promote their mental health;
- Destigmatize mental health care among the education workforce by designing and disseminating an education and awareness initiative encouraging education professionals to use mental health and substance use disorder services;
- Provide direct support to educators and school staff members by establishing programs to promote mental health among the education professional workforce; and
- Promote accountability for federal resources for new programs.
A summary of the legislation can be found here, and the full text can be found here.