The Centers for Disease Control recently announced a disturbing rise in suicide rates across the country. This might be a good time to look into mental health services at your school. Now, investigating mental health is difficult. Two federal laws keep deny you access to a lot of information: There’s HIPPA –the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 and there is FERPA — the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. The first protects an individual’s health records and the other protects student educational records.
But you can still do a solid investigation. First off, ask for staffing levels at your health center and break down for physicians and mental health professionals. Ask for the budgets. You are entitled to both. Then do a per capita — divide those numbers by the total number of students enrolled at your school. Then see if you can find comparable figures for other schools in your system or state. Ask for the same numbers for five years ago and 10 years ago to see if staffing and spending has kept up with enrollment.
You might try crowdsourcing to find students who have used or tried to get help from the mental health system. Find the director of your local suicide prevention organization and hotline and see if they have been seeing an increase in students.
There are some good resources out there:
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention has guides for journalists.
You might also check out this story that the Yale Daily News did in 2016 on the experience on students who return to school after withdrawing for mental health reasons.