Westmoreland County

Gov. Shapiro holds mental health roundtable with Hempfield Area High School students

HEMPFIELD TOWNSHIP, Pa. — Gov. Josh Shapiro held a roundtable discussion with students at Hempfield Area High School Wednesday morning to talk about mental health.

He said meetings with high schoolers teach him about what students are dealing with and allows them to give ideas on how to address it.

Hempfield Area junior Nick Miller was one of those students. He said he knows he and his friends have had many struggles when it comes to mental health.

“I say with urgency, the mental health crisis in American teens needs to be addressed immediately,” Miller said. He shared those concerns with Shapiro and his classmates.

Shapiro said people have been hesitant to speak about this for far too long.

“With this generation, that stigma is starting to dissipate,” Shapiro said.

Miller also shared research with the governor from the American Association of Pediatrics.

They recommend middle schools and high schools start at 8:30 a.m. or later.

That could give teens more sleep.

Some local schools, like Upper St. Clair, are already considering that idea.

“In the future, I hope to see not only Pennsylvania politicians push for later start times in schools, but politicians across the country as well,” Miller said.

Shapiro said his administration will look into it, even though it may not be a statewide change.

Regardless, investing in mental health — especially for students — is something Shapiro calls a priority.

He said 38% of students in Westmoreland County reported to the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency that they feel depressed. Seventeen percent reported incidents of self-harm. Eighteen percent seriously considered suicide.

“Young people are crying out for help, and it’s on us to deliver for them,” Shapiro said.

In his budget proposal given to lawmakers in March, he set aside half a billion dollars over the next five years to fund mental health counselors and services in schools.

He also wants another $60 million a year for mental health funding at the county level.

“It’s time we just listen to our young people who are showing us the way, Shapiro said.

Lawmakers in Harrisburg have to pass a final budget by June 30.

Upper St. Clair is expected to vote Wednesday night on its proposal to start high school at 8 a.m., a half hour later than the current start time.

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