WVU student leaders ask for more funding for mental health

West Virginia University students hope the governor will agree to invest federal relief dollars toward the mental health on college campuses.

“It’s a crisis on college campuses across the country. No state has really figured it out,” said Azeem Khan, a senator with the Student Government Association.

“By showing that West Virginia is going to take this seriously, Governor Justice has the opportunity to position West Virginia as a leader in the country in mental health. People will take notice of that and respect it.”

Khan acknowledged that mental health resources already exist for students, but he said the covid-19 pandemic highlighted greater need. Not only have many experienced stress, fatigue, loneliness and isolation during the pandemic, but mental health concerns have gone through increased societal consideration.

“At the end of the day it comes down to resources,” said Khan, a freshman from Charleston, “and students feel like they don’t have enough services and aren’t getting what they need for mental health.

“Covid-19 has kind of changed the conversation around mental health. More people are seeking support.”

WVU’s Student Government Association on Sept. 15 passed a resolution in favor of the Mountaineer Resilience Project.

“The Mountaineer Resilience Project would not only help change the lives of students, but also save the lives of students,” the resolution states.

Aspects of the project could include extending telehealth options for students, creating hotlines for specific groups of students at risk such as veterans or sexual assault survivors or establishing a mobile counseling center for students with limited transportation options. More investment could go toward public service campaigns to reduce stigma.

The students hope for support through the state’s federal CARES funding. West Virginia originally received $1.25 billion and has more than $127 million remaining, according to the state Auditor’s site. 

After the resolution passed, the students reached out to Gov. Jim Justice’s administration to consider support. The administration received that message but has not yet made a decision, officials said this week.

“As a high school basketball coach I would think that Governor Justice would understand better than anybody what young Americans are going through right now when it comes to their mental health,” Khan said, referring to the governor’s role as a girls coach at Greenbrier East High School.

J.B. McCuskey

The WVU students have also been running their ideas past state Auditor J.B. McCuskey, who was effusive about the proposal. McCuskey said the students had a professional presentation, are asking for a reasonable amount and are promoting a laudable goal.

“It’s just always good to see kids stepping up and doing it the right way,” McCuskey said this week.

Khan hopes consideration could be made for mental health support at colleges across the state.

“People really need help right now,” he said. “I personally feel the Mountaineer Resilience Project would not just help the lives of students, but it would save the lives of students at WVU. And you can’t put a price tag on that.”

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