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Students Speak Up for Mental Health: Ottumwa Legacy Youth Alliance, Other Area Students, and NAMI Take Action at Iowa State Capitol

Students from Ottumwa Legacy Youth Alliance as well as other students from EBF, Ottumwa, and Cardinal School Districts spoke with legislators about mental health on Monday, March 6th. The day began with an advocacy training session hosted by NAMI Iowa, where first-time advocates learned the basics of navigating the Iowa State Capitol, finding and connecting with their legislators, and crafting their message. The training was followed by panel discussions on Iowa’s children’s mental health system and the mental health workforce crisis. 

While it is not common for teens to attend events like the NAMI Iowa advocacy day, the students from Southeast Iowa stood out for their dedication to being a voice for all students across the state. They shared real, honest stories from their schools about teens who are struggling with mental health, shining a light on the urgent need for improved mental health resources and services in Iowa’s schools. Their courage and commitment to this important issue are a testament to the power of youth advocacy and the impact that young people can have on shaping policy and driving change 

Panelist Mary Neubauer, a mental health advocate and member of the Iowa Children’s Behavioral Health System State Board, recognized the students attending the event, saying “A shoutout to the students that are here today, your voices will cut through the clutter of all the other stuff the legislators are hearing today, thank you for being here and advocating for NAMI Iowa.” 

The students had an opportunity to speak directly with legislators in the afternoon and advocated for a comprehensive, compassionate, and effective mental health system in Iowa. They urged lawmakers to fully implement core services in the adult and children’s mental health systems. Additionally, the students advocated for increased mental health resources and services in schools, including licensed therapists and counselors trained in trauma-informed practices in every school. They encouraged the collection of data on students’ unique mental health needs via wellbeing surveys and supported HF 101, which would put the mental health crisis phone/text number on all student ID cards statewide. 

Isaac Cox, a member of Legacy Youth Alliance, commented on the event saying, “NAMI 2023 was a success! Such a great opportunity to go up to the Capital, to talk about mental health for teens and how we can improve it and get more help in our school system!”  

Overall, the day was a success, as students from different school districts came together to advocate for improved mental health resources and services in Iowa. Their dedication and advocacy efforts will undoubtedly have a significant impact on the mental health system in Iowa, ensuring that all Iowans have access to comprehensive, compassionate, and effective mental health services.