APA praised National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) for its current broad portfolio and focus on suicide research and suggested additional areas to prioritize in its response (PDF, 315KB) to NIMH’s recent call for stakeholder comments on Black youth suicide research.

APA has worked hard on this issue over the past year, providing information and names of experts to U.S. Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.), whose mental health legislation, H.R. 5649, passed by the House in September 2020, directed NIMH and the National Institute of Minority Health and Health Disparities to work together to sponsor research that could prevent Black youth suicide. The NIMH Request for Information came in part as a response to Rep. Watson Coleman’s legislation which APA supported. Rep. Watson Coleman plans to reintroduce the legislation in the new session of Congress. APA will continue its strong advocacy to gain passage of legislation to address the persistent problem of black youth suicide.

In 2017, suicide was the second leading cause of death in the United States for people ages 10 to 24. Certain young people, including those from the Black, Native American, and sexual and gender minority communities, are at disproportionate risk for dying by suicide, and for the precursors of ideation and suicide attempts. Data from the National Center for Health Statistics show a 56% increase in the rate of suicide among 10- to 24-year-olds over the 10-year period from 2007–2017. The suicide rate is roughly two times higher for Black children ages 5–12 compared with White children of the same age group, and more than a third of elementary school-age suicides involved Black children. Expert members from the Board for the Advancement of Psychology in the Public Interest and several APA divisions were asked to weigh in on how NIMH might focus its research to reduce Black youth suicide. Among APA’s recommendations were that NIMH support longitudinal research on how child-rearing (including physical punishment, parental incarceration, and parental adversity) and child abuse affect Black youth, especially in the context of poverty and discrimination. APA also supported additional research on: developmentally appropriate social media and technology to support LGBTQ Black youth; design and delivery of school mental health services; the impact of law enforcement violence on communities of color and research on access to firearms and safe storage.

For more information, contact Pat Kobor.