ACA CEO Testifies on Need for Improved Mental Health Care for Black Men and Boys

May 1, 2024

Alexandria, Va. (May 1, 2024) — Today, American Counseling Association (ACA) CEO Shawn Boynes, FASAE, CAE, testified at a congressional hearing about the role counselors can play in providing support for Black men and boys and dismantling stigma around mental health concerns amidst increasing rates of suicide and mental illness in this community.

Boynes — along with leaders of the American Psychological Association, National Association of Social Workers, National Alliance on Mental Illness and American Public Health Association — spoke to the Caucus on the Commission on the Social Status of Black Men & Boys, chaired by Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.). The hearing, “Mayday: Suicide and the Mental Health of Black Men and Boys,” also featured testimonies from former NFL linebacker Marcus Smith, who discussed his personal struggles with mental health, and Grammy-nominated recording artist Raheem Devaughn, who shared his experience as a caregiver for a relative diagnosed with a mental illness.

Suicide rates among Black men are on an alarming rise, but their access to mental health care remains limited. Boynes discussed ACA’s work to increase awareness of mental health among Black men and urged the representatives to support legislation that increases funding for mental health training programs, provides incentives for mental health professionals to work in underserved areas, and expands loan forgiveness programs for individuals pursuing mental health careers.

“Counselors and other mental health providers are stretched thin because the demand for their services has far outpaced their availability to provide care, so we need legislative and community-based solutions to impactfully tackle the problem,” Boynes said in his written testimony.

“Black men make up only 15% of the mental health counselor workforce, a number that needs to increase so people are able to work with a therapist who they can relate to culturally,” he added. “We must address lagging pay, student loan forgiveness and other avenues to open up the pipeline of Black men trained to provide the necessary care for their communities and peers.”

The Commission, created by an act of Congress in 2020, is a nonpartisan federal agency that leads a national discussion on the issues facing Black men and boys. It includes lawmakers, government executives, activists and other stakeholders who will issue policy recommendations to Congress, the White House and federal agencies. The Caucus, which Wilson founded, will explore legislation aimed at implementing those recommendations.

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Founded in 1952, the American Counseling Association (ACA) is a not-for-profit, professional and educational organization that is dedicated to the growth and enhancement of the counseling profession. ACA represents nearly 60,000 members and is the world’s largest association exclusively representing professional counselors in various practice settings. Driven by the belief that all people can benefit from the power of counseling, ACA’s mission is to promote the professional development of counselors, advocate for counselors, and ensure that ethical, culturally inclusive practices protect our members’ clients and all people who seek counseling services.