Adams Assails Lack Of Response To Black Youth Suicide Rate


For the second time this week, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams yesterday assailed the lack of government response to immediate issues facing communities of color – this time regarding the growing rates of suicide among black youth, particularly black girls.

Adams made his observations known following the release of a New York University study that found between 1991 and 2017, the suicide attempt rate across the country skyrocketed by 73% among black teenagers, while it decreased or stayed the same among other demographics.

“What I have found in America, we are reluctant and slow to identify a horrific incident that impacts black and brown people. We define ‘crisis’ as anything that does not take place in black and brown communities,” said Adams, who earlier this week assailed government for not applying the same responses to mass shooting victims in communities of color as it does in white neighborhoods where similar incidents occur.

“This would have been a front-page story across this country, if 73% of children attempted suicide from any other group. These babies matter just as any other community,” he added.

Among other notable findings, the study reported that:

·         During the study period, the self-reported rate of suicide attempts among white teenagers fell by 7.5%.

·         The rate of suicide attempts are increasing at a faster pace among black female teenagers, while overall female suicide attempts declined.

·         Some of the key factors exacerbating this crisis among black teenagers are a lack of access to mental health care in communities of color, and a stigma around seeking mental health services.

Public Advocate Jumaane Williams also pointed out the disparate treatment between black and white communities when dealing with the same issues. Photo by Urshila Rana.

Adams, along with Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, Medgar Evers College President Rudy Crew, New York City Department of Education’s (DOE’s) Brooklyn North Superintendent Karen Watts and Brooklyn South Superintendent Barbara Freeman, and students were at Borough Hall yesterday to highlight and start addressing the issue.

Williams echoed Adams’s concerns of the disparate way similar issues are treated differently in black and white communities.

“Black girls are 6 times more likely to be disciplined in school compared to their white counterparts. We know that black girls are over-policed, over-disciplined, and oftentimes overlooked. Combine that with the nature of becoming an adult in society and you might understand what is happening,” Williams said. “This is barely a blip on anybody’s media screen. A 73% increase of attempted suicides in a population, and nobody’s talking about it.”

Among the immediate calls to action that the group at borough hall called for was that Governor Andrew Cuomo sign recently passed legislation, S.4467B/A.6740 (Carlucci/Jean-Pierre), to create a State Black Youth Suicide task force.

In a statement lending support to the initiative, City Council Member Rafael Espinal (D-Bushwick, Cypress Hills, East New York) said, “A task force will put the experts to work in addressing the many factors that could improve our existing methods of suicide prevention. I stand with my fellow elected officials and all the advocates in urging Cuomo to sign on to creating the task force that will address this crisis.”

Adams also announced a hack-a-thon led by young people of color focused on improving mental health, with a $20,000 prize from Brooklyn Borough Hall to be awarded to the person or group with the most innovative idea for a PSA [Public Service Announcement] to improve mental health among young people.