Kenyatta co-hosts bipartisan public hearing on combatting mental health issues among youth
WASHINGTON CROSSING, Feb. 13 – Today, longtime mental health advocate state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, D-Phila., co-hosted a public hearing with Rep. Wendi Thomas, R- Bucks, at the Washington Crossing United Methodist Church to discuss solutions for youth struggling with mental health.
“I am thrilled to have been a part of this discussion that transcends partisanship because as public servants, we are all obligated to ensure our residents are physically, emotionally and mentally well,” Kenyatta said. “Mental health has always been a pressing and a coincidingly stigmatized issue in our society; I have been a longtime advocate for breaking those stigmas and promoting comprehensive solutions to ensure the well-being of our children.”
Thomas concurred with her Democratic House colleague’s praises of the bipartisan cohesion and pointed out that mental health also doesn’t discriminate.
“Mental health is an issue that does not discriminate. It affects all ages, races, genders and classes. Chances are that each of us knows an individual who has struggled with mental health issues, and we all hope that those close to us would be able to get the necessary assistance in times of desperation. Unfortunately, as many as 60% of students do not receive the treatment they need due to stigma and lack of access to services,” said Thomas, adding, “It is so encouraging to see, not only so many legislators attend our hearing, but such a bipartisan group as well. Nothing is more important than serving our students as they are our future.”
Kenyatta and Thomas, along with legislators from across the state, heard moving testimony from representatives from the Pennsylvania Office of the Attorney General and Department of Education, educators, and behavioral health professionals.
Serving in his first term representing the 181st Legislative District, Kenyatta has made destigmatizing mental health one of his top priorities. As a student at Temple University, Kenyatta founded STEPS, a campus-wide program that provides counseling to college students battling depression, after losing his friend to suicide.
As state representative, Kenyatta has introduced Philip’s Law, which aims to provide more trained mental health professionals in elementary and high schools across the state. The legislation is the namesake of a student in his district who took his own life after failing to receive help at his school for being bullied. Kenyatta currently serves on the unprecedented statewide Suicide Prevention Task Force formed by Gov. Tom Wolf in July 2019.