BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD)– Officials from Louisiana were among the lawmakers who gathered in Washington to address the nation’s mental health crisis this week.

On Wednesday, November 30, the Senate Committee heard related testimonies from witnesses and opinions from experts.

Pennsylvania High School Senior Brooklyn Williams told lawmakers, “You might not suspect that I am dealing with a lot of internal struggles.”

She went on to explain that she’d lost her mother to cancer.

“You might not suspect that I have severe social anxiety. I ate my entire breakfast this morning, but I still have bulimia and I got out of bed and did my hair, so I do not look depressed,” she added. “Just because I do not fit the description of someone with mental health problems, that does not mean that I’m fine.”

The points Williams touched on in her personal account coincided with the arguments Senator Bill Cassidy (R) of Louisiana and other lawmakers made during the Senate HELP Subcommittee Hearing on Youth Mental Health Crisis.

They argued that the mental health of the nation’s youth should be prioritized during major life events.

“Three years of COVID have just had their toll upon the mental health of adolescents and college students,” Cassidy said.

During the meeting, he pushed for the Pediatric Mental Care Act to be renewed and expanded.

“To increase mental health access outside of hospitals, so children can stay at home and don’t miss school,” he said.

The RISE Act was also discussed, an act designed to remove various barriers for those entering college. The proposed legislation takes into consideration the financial and time-related costs students in need of re-evaluations must shoulder.

“The underlying problem leading to the IEP has not changed. So why do we put obstacles for people to receive the interventions they need?” he asked.

Dr. Curtis Wright, Vice President of Student Affairs at Xavier University of Louisiana said, “Three months is the only thing that separates high school from college.”

He said colleges should create intervention points before students hit rock bottom.

“I do think being able to expand the reach of qualified mental health professionals in these spaces will allow those parents to see those warning signs,” Dr. Wright said.

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, one in five teenagers meet the criteria for a mental health condition.

Anyone experiencing a crisis can call the 24/7 hotline, at 988.