CLEVELAND, OH – U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) today convened a virtual roundtable discussion on the mental health challenges affecting young Black girls amid an alarming rise in suicide deaths. Brown spoke with mental health experts about a recent study, published by Dr. Arielle Sheftall through the Center for Suicide Prevention and Research at the Abigail Wexner Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, which found an increase in suicide rates among young Black children, and young Black girls in particular. The group discussed ways to support those in crisis.
“We all have a responsibility to make sure that these children and young adults know their full potential, and know that there are community leaders who care about them and the challenges they face. It’s up to us to ensure that we get real resources to our communities to support kids’ and teenagers’ physical and mental health,” said Sen. Brown.
During the period between 2003 and 2017, approximately 1,800 Black children died by suicide. Nearly 40 percent of the girls were 12 to 14 years old.
“Black youth suicide and suicidal behaviors have been increasing over the past decade, yet our understanding of the risks and protective factors associated with these behaviors in Black youth is extremely limited. This roundtable will allow us to discuss the current trends of Black youth suicide and gain some perspective of the risk factors present. It is the first step to understanding how research and policy can come together to intervene and decrease the likelihood of Black youth suicide,” said Dr. Arielle Sheftall, Ph.D., Principal Investigator in the Center for Suicide Prevention and Research at the Abigail Wexner Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, and Professor at the Ohio State University.
Rep. Lauren Underwood (IL-14) also joined Brown at the roundtable. Underwood recently authored the Child Suicide Prevention and Lethal Means Safety Act, which will bring increased funding and attention to suicide prevention for children and young adults. Brown is co-sponsoring the Senate version of her bill.
“For more than a decade, there has been an alarming uptick of suicides among children and adolescents, particularly among Black girls. It’s critical that we take action now to protect the lives of young people and curb this national crisis,” said Congresswoman Underwood. “That’s why I’m proud to be joining Senator Brown for this urgently important conversation and to work with him on my Child Suicide Prevention and Lethal Means Safety Act, which makes key investments to expand access to evidence-based suicide prevention initiatives in communities across the country.”
LaToya Logan, LISW-S, clinical social worker and the Executive Director at Project LIFT in Cleveland joined Brown at the roundtable as well.
“Addressing suicide risks impacting wellness through preventative and treatment measures that are culturally responsive and reflective of the unique experiences impacting Black girls is a vital component to disrupting the cycle. The Roundtable Discussion hosted by Senator Brown and Congresswoman Underwood is the first step to not only raising awareness, but towards developing solution-focused strategies to bridge the gap between health services and the Black community,” said Ms. Logan.