Today, suicide is the second leading cause of death for young people ages 10 to 24.
The number of suicides among children and teens has been going up for years now, and the pandemic only threatens to accelerate these alarming trends, and to make racial disparities even worse. It’s why I introduced the Child Suicide Prevention and Lethal Means Safety Act – it would help ensure that nurses, doctors, and mental health professionals have the training and resources they need to identify young people who are risk for suicide, and support them and get them the help they need.
This month, our office convened a roundtable to discuss mental health challenges facing young, Black girls, whose suicide rates have risen alarmingly. We brought together LaToya Logan, a clinical social worker and the executive director of Cleveland’s Project LIFT, Congresswoman Lauren Underwood, author of the Child Suicide Prevention Act, and Dr. Areille Sheftall from The Ohio State University, who also works at the Center for Suicide Prevention and Research at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus. Dr. Sheftall’s research found that Black children under 13 are twice as likely to die by suicide as their white counterparts, and the sharpest increase in suicide rates has been among young Black girls.
We know how critical a role health care professionals play in spotting signs that something may be wrong in a child’s life. It’s something we discussed on our roundtable – parents and advocates from around Ohio shared warning signs they look for in the kids they serve.
We also know that because of racial disparities in our health care system, too many young people of color – especially young, Black girls – are falling through the cracks. Warning signs are being missed.
Our bill would provide evidence-based training on youth suicide prevention to those in our health care system, and ensure future health care professionals get this essential training.
Leading health care and suicide prevention organizations support the bill, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Hospital Association, and the Association of American Medical Colleges.
We all have a responsibility to make sure that all children and young adults know their full potential, and know that there are health care experts and community leaders looking out for them, who care about them and understand the challenges they face.
Further, if you or someone you know is suffering, free help is available. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255, or you can text the Crisis Text Line – text HELLO to 741741.
Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) represents the state in the U.S. Senate.