On Tuesday, February 28th, the Biden-Harris Administration held a conversation titled Addressing the Mental Health Crisis Among Young Black Men. Led by Ambassador Susan Rice and Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy, the discussion centered on addressing the mental health of young Black men and discussing solutions to prevent disparities in mental health in America.
Ambassador Rice and Dr. Murthy were joined in their discussion by Dr. Arthur Evans, Chief Executive Officer and Executive Vice President of the American Psychological Association, Naheim Banks, and Miles Noble. Naheim Banks, a senior at Howard University, stressed how in Black communities there are stigmas surrounding mental health that deter people from receiving treatment. In part, Banks believed this is due to growing up with the belief that he, and others, were not able to show emotions. This sentiment was echoed by Miles Noble, a junior in high school, who believed that he had to handle his emotions on his own. Dr. Arthur Evans acknowledged that the hardest part is admitting you have a problem and asking for help.
During the conversation, Ambassador Rice proves the startling disparities young Black men are facing everyday regarding their mental health. It is reported that 40% of Black teenagers struggle with persistent sadness and feelings of hopelessness. As many as 22% seriously consider suicide. The suicide rates of Black Americans between 10-24 years old increased 36% over the past three years alone. As compared with white Americans, half as many Black Americans that need help, receive treatment. Further, Black men are more likely than Black women to die by suicide.
Mental health is health and is “our fuel that allows us to show up in the world” as stated by Dr. Murthy. It takes expanding the behavioral health workforce to be more diverse, creating prevention measures in our communities, and prioritizing the voices of those suffering.
Across America there is a behavioral healthcare workforce shortage that prevents millions from receiving critical care. To address this issue, Dr. Evans argued that America must address student debt to alleviate the financial burden for individuals to get trained. In turn, this would improve system capacity and yield a more diverse workforce. Banks recalled his difficult experience in finding a behavioral healthcare professional with the same racial and cultural background as him. This difficulty is another example of the importance in diversifying the workforce and providing race-based trauma support for Black Americans.
In addition, the panelists discussed taking a preventative approach through an increase in funding for mental health resource programs in our communities. The question was raised, how can we foster healthy and safe environments in our daily lives? Even if we can expand the workforce to meet the needs, understanding prevention and building programs that aim to prevent mental health disorders is at the forefront of this issue. This includes training programs for: violence prevention, the workplace, resilience programs in schools, and equity.
Please take a moment to listen to this important discussion. If you would like to become involved in ACA’s advocacy efforts, you can contact the ACA Government Affairs and Public Policy team at email@example.com.