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Rep. Underwood & U.S. Surgeon General lead student mental health crisis roundtable

U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy and Illinois U.S. Representative Lauren Underwood joined students at Neuqua Valley High School in Naperville for a virtual roundtable on mental health support.

It’s been a traumatic year for Neuqua Valley students. Two students have died by suicide this school year, and two recent graduates were killed in the Astroworld Festival tragedy.

The students talked about mental health awareness clubs and programs that helped them process their grief. But many say the school needs to do more. Dylan Sedgwick is a junior at the school.

“We have about three psychiatrists. We're over 1000+ students, and we have another three academic advisors that aren't trained to be therapists," he said. "So, it's really hard to try and get in to see people we need to talk to and these resources when they're not qualified.”

Surgeon General Murthy released a report late last year sounding the alarm about the student mental health crisis. He stressed the need for schools to partner with community healthcare providers.

"There are nurses and doctors out there who want to be helpful to students in the community," he said, "but that connection often isn't there."

Students said the school raised awareness for a while after they lost their friends, but it’s dwindled since.

Congresswoman Underwood, a graduate of Neuqua Valley, says that’s why more federal funding for school-based resources and social workers is crucial.

“They'll have extra counselors on site for maybe a couple of days — maybe a week," said the representative, "but those resources are very expensive and most school districts cannot afford to sustain it beyond that point in time. That's why these kinds of additional financial resources can be of benefit.”

Underwood led the effort to secure over $100 million in the new federal budget for school-based mental health services like hiring more social workers.

Peter joins WNIJ as a graduate of North Central College. He is a native of Sandwich, Illinois.