Congressional Forum Addresses Black Youth Suicide
The Congressional Black Caucus’s Emergency Taskforce on Black Youth Suicide recently hosted its fourth forum, “Hearing Their Stories: Students and How They Handle Their Mental Health.” Members of Congress heard from five students, as well as Susan Taylor, former editor-in-chief of Essence Magazine, and Dr. Cheryl Grills, Professor, Loyola Marymount University. The panelists provided recommendations for Congressional action to address mental health concerns among black youth.
The Taskforce was led by Representatives Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), and Bobby Scott (D-VA), who all asked the students about their experiences with mental health as well as some of their recommendations for legislative change. As Rep. Watson Coleman noted, “We cannot complete our work without directly hearing from those we impact, black youth.”
Dr. Grills described how black youth display a variety of demographic differences in how they experience suicidal thoughts and mental illness. Many current evidence-based practices and screening tools are not culturally competent, and thus are not as applicable to black youth. Due to this, Dr. Grills recommended that all future requirements for evidence-based practices should also come with a requirement that they be culturally competent.
Student panelists recommended a variety of possible areas for legislative change, including:
- A need for more black mental health professionals in the workforce, and specifically mental health professionals with experience in trauma/crisis treatment;
- Culturally competent mental health care at Historically Black Colleges and Universities;
- Improved mental health care and consideration in the foster system;
- Increased funding for LGBTQ-specific mental health resources; and
- Improved mental health resources in the juvenile justice system, and more programs that work to prevent youth from entering the system.
The Emergency Taskforce on Black Youth Suicide will continue to meet for a limited time and will soon form a plan of action for legislation.