Last year, the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Pediatrics published a report that found that for the first time in the history of such research, the rate of suicides for Black children between the ages of five and twelve has exceeded that of White children and more than a third of elementary school-aged suicides involved Black children. In order to raise awareness and identify solutions, the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) has established an Emergency Taskforce on Black Youth Suicide and Mental Health, which I have been appointed to chair. Our nation’s youngest generation reports more mental health concerns then previous generations, and we cannot leave Black youth behind when addressing these issues.
Over the next several months, the members of the Taskforce will work to identify the range of mental health problems facing our youth, their causes, and potential solutions with the assistance of a working group of academic, advocacy and other practicing experts. During listening sessions in Washington, DC and across the country, we will work to inform community leaders, parents and the adults on our children’s lives about this trend and how to become the “first responders” that get our youth the assistance they desperately need. On Tuesday, April 30th we will begin that critical work with a panel of experts, including members of the Taskforce working group, and I invite you to join us for this important event.
I hope that you and your staff will attend to learn the alarming rise of suicide among Black youth, along with the unique mental health struggles that Black youth frequently face due to lack of resources and proper diagnosis — struggles that have often gone unnoticed and misunderstood.
Michael A. Lindsey, PhD, MSW, MPH, Executive Director of the McSilver Institute for Poverty Policy and Research
Alfiee Breland-Noble, PhD, MHSc, Project Director of AAKOMA and Medical Researcher at the Georgetown University Medical Center
William B. Lawson, MD, PhD, DLFAPA, PA, Consultation Institute for Reducing Disparities Through Research, Education, and Access to Care, Editor in Chief, Journal of the National Medical Association
BONNIE WATSON COLEMAN
Member of Congress
Background on Black Youth Suicide and Mental Health
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is the third leading cause of death among all Black American children ages ten to nineteen. Between 1993-2012, suicide rates doubled among Black children. We know that poverty and encounters with the criminal justice system further contribute to mental illness and suicide, and that Black youth are more like to endure experiences with one or both. The data we have available emphasizes the need for action:
Black adolescents are about half as likely to receive mental health care compared to their White counterparts.
70 percent of youth in state and local juvenile justice systems have a mental illness, and that population is a population disproportionately comprised of Black and Hispanic youth.
Incarcerated youth die by suicide at a rate 2-3 times higher than that of youth in the general population.
About 4 in 10 youth suicides in 2015 and 2016 involved guns according to a study published by the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.