The Congressional Black Caucus has created an emergency task force on Black Youth Suicide and Mental Health. The task force, which will be chaired by Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ), will address the mental health care concerns of Black Youth including those in the LGBT community.

“Today we begin the work of identifying the causes for this crisis, and how to formulate those solutions,” Watson Coleman said. “Over the next several months, in addition to events like this in Washington, D.C., we hope to bring what we learn to communities across the country, connecting parents and other community leaders to the knowledge and tools to be the ‘first responders’ who identify students at risk and get them the help they need.”

At news conference officially launching the task force, April 30 Watson Coleman mentioned the highly publicized cases of Black children and teenagers who have taken their own lives at a rate double that of their white counterparts and the list of factors that lead to such issues.

“High-profile cases, like the deaths of McKenzie Nicole Adams and more recently Nigel Shelby, demonstrate how difficult it is to categorize the circumstances that are taking our children’s lives – there are elements of race, trauma, of socioeconomic status, of sexual orientation and gender identity and many more issues at play,” Watson Coleman said.

David Johns, executive director of the National Black Justice Coalition, a D.C.-based LGBT advocacy organization, who testified at the launching news conference told the Washington Blade that cultural competency training for teachers who interact the young people daily is an important part of fixing an issue that has been growing for a while.

“What we need most is for every teacher who stands in front of a student to have the kind of cultural competence that’s required in order to create spaces where everybody feels supported,” he said.

The task force goal is to produce a report on the issue and potential solutions by the end of 2019.

The task force members include Jahana Hayes (D-CT), John Lewis (D-GA), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), Danny Davis (D-IL), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Alma Adams (D-NC), Frederica Wilson (D-FL), Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), Alcee Hastings (D-FL) and Emanuel Cleaver II (D-MO).

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