Announcing a New, Emergency Taskforce on Black Youth Suicide and Mental Health
Congressional Black Caucus, LGBTQ Civil Rights Org, and Mental Health Professionals Address Growing Suicide Rates and Access to Help
WASHINGTON— Today, the National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC) — the nation’s only civil rights organization working at the intersection of racial justice and LGBTQ/SGL equality — joined the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) and mental health practitioners to launch a new, emergency taskforce focused on the growing problem of suicide and access to mental health care among Black youth.
“Students who do not feel safe and affirmed cannot be expected to demonstrate what they know and learn. This is not new news. We know that when students are not supported they disengage and dropout, which can impact life opportunities and future ability to earn money,” said David Johns, Executive Director of the National Black Justice Coalition. “In honor of Nigel Shelby, Jamel Myles, Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover, McKenzie Adams and so many other babies whose names we may never know, we need to act urgently to address the trauma, stress, and mental health needs of children, youth and young adults, especially those from racial and sexual minority communities.”
Chaired by Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ), the CBC Taskforce on Black Youth Suicide and Mental Health will focus on educating Congress members about this mental health crisis and identify solutions and legislative recommendations. The taskforce will also convene experts in Washington, DC and around the country.
The event took place on the last day of National Minority Health Month. The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Pediatrics published a report last year showing that the rate of suicides for Black children between the ages of five and 12 has exceeded that of White children — and more than a third of elementary school-aged suicides involved Black children.
Other research shows that LGBTQ people are nearly 3 times more likely than others to experience a mental health condition like major depression. Fears about coming out, gender-based violence and the rising epidemic of discrimination, abuse and violence against Black LGBTQ/SGL people also leads to higher rates of anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and substance abuse — even among school-aged children and teens.
Members of the Taskforce 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)
A little more background on David and NBJC:
NBJC Executive Director David Johns has unique expertise as a public school teacher (elementary and post-secondary) and he was also the inaugural Executive Director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans. NBJC’s is centered around cultural competence work that makes the organization uniquely equipped to deploy at HBCUS and K-12 schools throughout the country (full bio here).
With regard to tools/resources: NBJC created a Words Matter Gender Justice Toolkit, to outline how word, phrases and negative language perpetuate stereotypical ideas of individuals and communities that shape our views and interactions, as well as reinforce layered forms of oppression and discrimination based on gender, race, sexual identity, socioeconomic status and other factors.
The National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC) is America’s leading civil rights organization dedicated to the empowerment of Black lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and same gender loving (LGBTQ/SGL) people, including people living with HIV/AIDS.