Congresswoman Watson Coleman Releases CBC Youth Suicide Taskforce Report
Bill to Address Rising Rate of Youth Suicide Introduced Alongside Report
Washington, DC (December 17, 2019) — Following months of listening events and meetings in Washington, DC and across multiple Congressional districts, The Congressional Black Caucus’s Emergency Taskforce on Black Youth Suicide and Mental Health today released a report, “Ring the Alarm: the Crisis of Black Youth Suicide in America.” outlining the state of Black youth mental health and detailed policy recommendations for consideration by Congress. Chaired by Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman, the task force was formed in April to explore the causes of and solutions to increasing rates of suicide among Black children. The report was assembled with the help of the task force’s working group, led by Dr. Michael A. Lindsey, PhD, MSW, MPH, Executive Director of the NYU McSilver Institute for Poverty Policy and Research.
“When I pushed for the creation of this Emergency Taskforce this past April, I conceived of its mission as an emergency response to what I viewed as an emerging crisis,” said Watson Coleman. “What the data shows us about the increases in suicide and mental health issues requires a focused and deliberate assessment of what’s at play so that we can offer real solutions. I’m proud that our task force and working group have produced a roadmap for Congress to follow in order to save lives in the immediate term and turn this crisis around.”
“We cannot overstate the significance of the work of this taskforce,” said Rep. Karen Bass, Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus. “For far too long, a stigma against mental health assistance has plagued the Black community. We must sound the alarm on the crisis of suicide rates among our youth and come together to build healthy communities. The taskforce’s recommendations provide a clear roadmap towards that end.”
"Alarming trends among Black youth have been overlooked as America grapples with rising suicide rates,” said Dr. Lindsey. “The historical suicide rate gap between Black and White youth is narrowing by some measures; and among the youngest, Black children actually have the highest rates of suicide. With this report, we are ringing the alarm on a growing mental health crisis among Black youth and calling attention to the need for more research funding; mental health professionals in schools; and local, state and federal attention."
“Shame, socioeconomic status, lack of trust and lack of access all remain barriers in mental health, leading so many African-Americans to suffer in silence,” said Congresswoman Ilhan Omar. “The rate of suicides for black children is more than double that of white children, according to data released last year. Despite these trends, Black Americans are less likely to receive behavioral treatment – regardless of age or income. There are many different factors for why African Americans with mental health issues are not receiving the care they need. Institutionalized racism in America has greatly influenced socioeconomic disparities faced by communities of color, and poverty is a high-risk factor in behavioral health issues. This summer, I was grateful to host Members of the Congressional Black Caucus, and mental health experts in my district to tackle this epidemic. And today, I am proud to work with Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman to call attention to it and find solutions that help our communities.”
“As a former chief psychiatric nurse, I am deeply concerned that suicide is the second leading cause of death among all black American children between ten to nineteen years old. We can no longer be silent while our children struggle with mental illnesses and lack of accessible care,” said Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson. “We must educate our families and advance the resources needed to effectively address mental health in our communities. I look forward to the work ahead based on the evidence-based recommendations of this report.”
“For almost 3 decades, more and more Black children and teens have attempted suicide,” said Rep. Barbara Lee. “The rate of Black girls attempting suicide is out pacing their peers and Black boys are attempting suicide often with more lethal means. We owe it to our young people to take them seriously and find unique, culturally responsive solutions to address this crisis.”
“Black children face trauma and racial stigmas that are leading to devastating consequences,” said Congressman Cleaver. “As the CBC continues to search for solutions to address the growing rates of youth suicide in our communities, this report is an important first step in addressing the issue. I want to thank Rep Watson Coleman for her tireless efforts to combat this troubling trend. Our children are our most valuable resource, and we must do more to ensure they’re getting the help they need.”
“Suicide and mental health has long been an unspoken stigma in the African American community, but at a time when our children are facing a suicide rate that is far outpacing their peers, it is our moral duty to bring this difficult issue to light and ensure our children receive the support they desperately need,”said Congressman Alcee L. Hastings.“Mental health is certainly not exempt from the devastating racial health disparities we see across our entire healthcare system. That is why, in August, I held a Congressional Roundtable in my district, examining how the State of Florida addresses mental health and suicide issues in our schools and communities. I am proud to join Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman and the entire CBC Emergency Taskforce in publishing this final report and introducing a comprehensive bill, the Pursuing Equity in Mental Health Act of 2019, to combat the worsening mental health crisis among our children.”
The working group, comprised of mental health professionals, social workers, educators, academics and advocacy leaders, examined research from the academic community and testimony from advocates, doctors, members of the clergy, and students in compiling this report. In addition to presenting a range of findings on the state of Black youth mental health, the report offers evidence-based strategies to get resources and mental health assistance to Black youth and includes specific resources available to families right now.
Alongside the report, Congresswoman Watson Coleman announced the pending introduction of a comprehensive legislative package aimed at addressing youth mental health — in communities of color and well beyond. The Pursuing Equity in Mental Health Act of 2019 will:
· include new and existing legislative proposals to increase the amount of research relating to Black youth mental health and suicide through the National Institutes of Health and the National Institute of Mental Health, particularly research undertaken by minority researchers;
· promote training to students, parents, teachers, and other school staff to identify and screen for signs of trauma, mental health disorders, and risk of suicide;
· increase funding for and directing the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD) to study mental health disparities in racial and ethnic minority groups;
· prohibit federal funds from being used for conversion therapy and prohibits SAMHSA grants to states that continue to allow such practices.