Happy Mental Health Awareness Month! Every issue has an impact on our mental wellness, so this week we are sharing messages from across the Alliance Network on how some of our key issues impact the mental health of young people. Check back throughout the week to see updates on topics ranging from abortion access to voter rights!
Abortion Access x Mental Health
Abortion access is a mental health issue. Research and stories from our community tell us that limiting abortion access will severely impact mental health.
When people do not have resources or options to make decisions about their bodies, they experience fear, stress, anxiety, depression, and more.
Learn more from:
Access to a safe abortion is healthcare.
New Era Colorado launched The Brazen Project, a student-led initiative dedicated to ending shame and stigma around abortion and empowering our peers to speak up and speak out about abortion access. They support students organizing on their college campuses to fight abortion stigma, to build support for abortion access, to share their stories, and to help students to advocate for better policies.
They also recently passed the Reproductive Health Equity Act!
How the Alliance Network is Organizing on Abortion Access:
Loud Light – Loud Light is fighting a constitutional amendment that would remove the right to an abortion from the state constitution. The amendment would give a simple majority of state legislators absolute control over abortion regulation including the ability to ban abortion without exception.
Mississippi Votes – The only abortion provider in Mississippi is at the center of the case that could overturn Roe v. Wade. If the Supreme Court overturns Roe, trigger laws that ban all abortions occurring in the state will likely be enacted. Mississippi Votes is part of the Mississippi Abortion Access Coalition assuring that Mississippians know that they still have access to abortion and contraception
Learn from and Donate to these groups:
Voter Access x Mental Health
Research has found that states with more voting access and greater civic participation levels are healthier overall. States with more exclusionary voting laws are less healthy. When people have more access to the ballot box, they can directly vote on issues that affect their health and build better social inclusion and belonging in their community.
When our democracy is healthy, people are healthy.
MOVE Texas has always been a fierce advocate for voting rights. They’ve organized press conferences, rallies, protests, lobby days, and more to push back against harmful voter suppression efforts in their state.
Even when an anti-voter law passed late last year, they did everything in their power to ensure Texan voters could register to vote, learn about what’s on their ballot, and make a plan to vote. Most recently, the MOVE team helped voters in the primaries when many ballots were being rejected due to voting law changes.
How the Alliance Network is organizing around Voting Rights
Chicago Votes – Chicago Votes is leading legislation that would restore voting rights to the roughly 30,000 people incarcerated in Illinois prisons.
Forward Montana – Last year, Forward Montana sued the state over a last-minute anti-voter amendment to the constitution. When they are not fighting voter suppression efforts, they are organizing Student Voter Days and Candidate Forums to ensure our democracy is accessible to all.
Loud Light – Loud Light is continuously fighting back voter suppression efforts in Kansas. Now, they are battling it out in court and fighting gerrymandered maps that dilute minority votes.
Mississippi Votes – Mississippi Votes worked to defend against over 70 voter suppression bills in the 2021 Mississippi legislative session. They also supported 52 voter suffrage applications through the state legislature and are leading voting rights restoration efforts.
NextUp – Next Up is leading legislation that would restore voting rights to the roughly 13,000 people incarcerated in Oregon prisons.
Police in Schools x Mental Health
Research tells us that the presence of police in schools fuels the school-to-prison-to-deportation pipeline. At least 14 million students in the United States attend schools with police officers on site but not staff counselors, nurses, or social workers. Mental health providers in schools provide positive outcomes for students.
Students need support. Not punishment.
Since 2013, Poder in Action has successfully decreased the number of school resource officers (SROs) and increased funding to services that promote learning and wellness in the Phoenix Union High School District. Currently, they are working on urging the City of Phoenix to allocate American Rescue Plan Act funds for mental health to center BIPOC, migrant, working class, LGBTQ+ and communities and not the policing, surveillance and punishment of these communities.
How the Alliance Network is organizing to divest from policing
Leaders Igniting Transformation – LIT is calling for Wisconsin universities to divest from policing on campuses and reinvest those funds to support BIPOC communities and students in their Dare to Divest campaign. LIT staff went to the capitol to provide testimonies to vote ‘no’ on a bill that would give the state grounds to put armed police back in public schools, an issue LIT fought for and successfully won in Milwaukee in 2020.
Virginia Student Power Network – The Virginia Student Power Network is fighting for public safety without policing and building alternatives to the injustice system. This includes finding alternatives to policing in universities and K-12 schools in Virginia.
Student Debt x Mental Health
A recent survey tells us that more than 60% of borrowers feel that student debt negatively affects their mental health. When people aren’t able to pay their bills or their student loans they often feel shame, guilt, and anxiety. Canceling student debt would not only heal more than 44 million people, but would allow them to focus on the future.
We should be building our dreams without debt.
Virginia Student Power Network is continuing to protect the progress they’ve made on recent higher education wins, including passing legislation to provide in-state tuition and state financial aid for undocumented students in Virginia!
Right now, Virginia Student Power Network is pushing VA Commonwealth University to implement a tuition freeze and stop them from raising tuition on students during a student debt crisis.
How the Alliance Network is organizing to cancel student debt.
New Era Colorado – Last year, New Era was Colorado passed the Student Loan Equity Act which protects students from private student loan lenders. Most recently, they passed legislation that ends the punitive practice of withholding transcripts and diplomas!
Ohio Student Association – OSA is fighting to defeat anti-critical race theory bills by holding teach-ins, collecting testimonies, and hosting a direct action opposing the bills. They’re also working to get debt navigation programs passed in state legislatures to end the Transcript Trap.
The Washington Bus – The Washington Bus team is continuously pushing to make bridge grants available to students, stronger equity and diversity initiatives on campuses, and more mental health resources a reality for more students across the state.
Student Debt Stories
“I currently owe $58,929 in private student debt, which is almost $10,000 more than when I graduated less than 5 years ago, making it impossible to afford all my basic necessities and start paying the exorbitant monthly payment. The stress that has come along with this burden has deeply impacted my mental health. I’ve begun taking medication for anxiety and I am certain this is related to the economic instability I am facing.”
— Hayley Banyai-Becker
Denver Regional Field Manager, New Era Colorado
“Student debt affects my mental health because having an enormous, seemingly unending debt can feel so heavy. With the constant threat of payments restarting looming ahead, it feels like we are in a game of limbo where the only options are to lose. What is even more painful to me is watching our government continue to prioritize funding for wars and police while we are all struggling. It’s mental and emotional violence.”
— Kalia Harris
Executive Director, Virginia Student Power Network
“The student debt crisis has detrimental effects on mental health. I experience much internal conflict because I am unsure what I want to do in the future, and money is the focal point of those concerns. We need free college and student debt cancellation because they’re necessary steps towards guaranteeing autonomy for people’s lives.
— Ruby Wang
Join Our Dreams Not Debt Campaign:
- Sign the petition demanding Biden take bolder steps in canceling student debt, reform the student loan program, and make public colleges and universities free for all.
- Submit your student debt story
- Share the actions with friends & family
The Alliance is building a strong community of young leaders, and to do that we have to care for ourselves inside and out. So, what are you doing to take care of yourself this month? Here’s what some of the Alliance staff are doing to practice self-care.