On September 29, 2020, efforts by the McSilver Institute to inform policymakers about troubling trends in Black youth mental health reached an important milestone, when the House of Representatives passed H.R. 5469, the Pursuing Equity in Mental Health Act, legislation authored by Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman to address the disparities in access, care and study of mental health issues among people of color. The bill, written following nine months of work by the Congressional Black Caucus Emergency Taskforce on Black Youth Suicide and Mental Health, authorizes $805 million in grants and other funding to support research, improving the pipeline of culturally competent providers, build outreach programs that reduce stigma, and develop a training program for providers to effectively manage disparities.
The Emergency Taskforce sought to identify causes and solutions, and empowered a working group of academic and practicing experts led by the NYU McSilver Institute and its Executive Director, Dr. Michael A. Lindsey. Last December the group produced a report to the taskforce, titled, Ring The Alarm: The Crisis of Black Youth Suicide and Mental Health.
Read more about it in a post about the bill’s passage.
Report: Black Youth Suicide Rates Rising, Defying Historic Trends
On December 17, 2019, the Congressional Black Caucus’s Emergency Taskforce on Black Youth Suicide and Mental Health 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. The report was developed and produced by the task force’s working group, led by Dr. Michael A. Lindsey, Executive Director of the NYU McSilver Institute for Poverty Policy and Research.
About the Congressional Black Caucus Emergency Task Force on Black Youth Suicide and Mental Health
The McSilver Institute for Poverty Policy and Research at New York University leads a working group of experts who support the Congressional Black Caucus Emergency Taskforce on Black Youth Suicide and Mental Health (CBC Taskforce). U.S. Representative Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ) chairs the taskforce and led the effort for its establishment.
Launched on April 30, 2019, the task force seeks to identify causes and solutions to an alarming trend: rising suicide rates among Black children and youth in the U.S.
In addition to Rep. Watson Coleman, the taskforce members include:
- Alma Adams (NC-12)
- Emanuel Cleaver II (MO-05)
- Danny Davis (IL-07)
- Alcee Hastings (FL-20)
- Jahana Hayes (CT-05)
- Eddie Bernice Johnson (TX-30)
- Barbara Lee (CA-13)
- John Lewis (GA-05)
- Ilhan Omar (MN-05)
- Ayanna Pressley (MA-07)
- Frederica Wilson (FL-24)
Policy Advocacy Relating to Youth Suicide and Mental Health
The CBC taskforce’s creation follows the McSilver Institute’s policy advocacy work on Black youth, suicide and mental health, at both the federal and state level.
On December 6, 2018, Dr. Lindsey, who is a noted scholar in the field child and adolescent mental health, called for the creation of a task force on Black youth and suicide during a congressional staff briefing hosted by Rep. Watson Coleman. The discussion begins at the 20-minute mark.
On June 4, 2019, he testified at a New York State Senate Joint Public Hearing on Suicide and Prevention before the Senate Standing Committee on Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities, chaired by Senator David Carlucci; and the Senate Standing Committee on Health, chaired by Senator Gustavo Rivera.
On June 20, 2019, a bill to establish a Black youth suicide prevention task force passed in the New York State legislature.
Facts about Black Youth, Suicide, and Mental Health
- Suicide rates doubled between the years 1993 and 2011 for Black youth ages 5-11 years old, with Black boys being twice as likely to die by suicide as White boys in the same age group, according to a 2018 study led by epidemiologist Jeff Bridge.
- Meanwhile, suicide rates for White youth and other racial/ethnic groups actually decreased over that time period.
- The mental health needs of Black youth are not being adequately met. A study led by Dr. Lindsey that was published in the Journal of Adolescent Health revealed that 50 percent of 465 ninth-grade Black adolescents surveyed had mental health needs, but only 20 percent of those Black youth received treatment.
- Schools have a crucial role to play in addressing the mental health needs of Black youth since that is where they spend a significant amount of time. There should be mental health providers in every school, proportionate to the number of students.
- As Dr. Lindsey addresses in an article he co-wrote in the American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, mental health problems may be externalized by youth as behavioral or discipline problems, with African American male youth being 3 times more likely to be suspended than their White male counterparts. An end to school suspensions and expulsions and greater focus on the mental health of Black youth would help to address this disparity.
Learn more about the McSilver Institute’s research and solutions relating to mental health and behavioral health.