pay mind to alarming reports of black youth self-harm

December 20, 2019
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Trigger Warning – Self Harm & Suicide

Our kids need us to pay attention to mental health.

Recently, a 38-page report titled “Ring the Alarm: The Crisis of Black Youth Suicide in America” was conducted by a task force of the Congressional Black Caucus. The report gave an account of an alarming increase in the Black youth suicide and suicide attempt rate, especially when compared to other youth groups. The report specifically references children aged 10-19, making this the second leading cause of death for Black children in this age demographic. While there have always been mental health issues in the Black community, history shows they have never been as high and frequent as they are today. Now that we know, we must get to the bottom of why. 

Since 1991, not only have suicide rates grew 73 percent for both sexes, but injuries from suicide attempts have risen 122 percent for Black boys. This devastating news does not come without hope and solutions. Rep. Bonnie Coleman Watson who chaired the Caucus’ task force ensured the people, “The good news is that there are indeed solutions, there are evidence-based programs, there are ways of supporting the opportunities to do the research to understand the particularities of our community and the traumas associated with our children and their mental health well-being,”

Coleman Watson has plenty of proposals for The Mental Health Act, 2019 to address mental health specifically for the youth of color. She begins by proposing an increase in research around this topic. Understanding the importance of the role your surroundings play in your mental well-being, she would like to promote training for students as well as parents, teachers and other school staff members to equip all to identify signs of suicide risk in children. She also has suggested increasing funding for the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities to understand why minority communities suicide rates are strikingly higher than white ones. Finally, and very importantly, she hopes to officially prohibit the usage of federal funds for conversion therapy. 

Although completed suicides are still most common in white youths, the gap that previously existed is quickly closing with a 60% increase in Black male youths and an 100% one in Black adolescent females. We need a worldwide mental health conversation that results in a world that understands it is as a legitimate disease. In addition, we need to do the work to specifically understand mental health in the Black community and why the past few years have resulted in such an increase.