Ambassador Susan E. Rice Remarks at “Addressing the Mental Health Crisis among Young Black Men with the Biden-Harris Administration”
As Prepared For Delivery:
Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you to the members of the public who are tuning in and our participants for taking the time to join us today. I’m Susan Rice, President Biden’s Domestic Policy Advisor.
As the President shared during his State of the Union address, we must do more to tackle our mental health crisis, especially for our children and young people.
Every day, I see how mental health challenges—often exacerbated by social media and other factors—are a force multiplier across so many of our most pressing challenges as a nation, compounding issues such as our labor shortage, homelessness, and criminal justice.
And, I also see this as the mother of two young adults.
This crisis is increasingly acute among young Black men.
Nearly 40 percent of Black teenagers say they struggle with persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness, and 22 percent of Black teenagers reported seriously considering suicide. In 2019, 8.5% of Black high school students attempted suicide, while 6.4% of White students did. And in 2018, 9% of black men reported feeling sad while 6.9 percent of white men reported the same.
Suicide rates among Black Americans between the ages of 10-24 year have increased 36 percent over the past three years. As compared with white Americans, half as many Black Americans who need mental health treatment get such treatment, according to the National Institutes of Health. We know that young Black men face structural racism, which results in trauma that follows them throughout their lives. And, we know that getting help can be more challenging for men compared to women.
So, what are we doing? We are building a system with enough capacity and the right competencies to treat everyone. We are connecting people to the culturally competent and trauma-informed services they need, by tackling high costs and other barriers. We are creating environments that support mental health and wellbeing, in school or online. We are making help easily accessible and confidential, by dialing or texting 988, the national suicide and crisis lifeline.
Thanks to the Biden Administration’s efforts, schools are hiring more counselors, nurses, and social workers. More underserved young Americans can access mental health providers. More dedicated staff are answering the phones at crisis call centers.
But, this is just the beginning—and it’s still not nearly enough.
We have a lot learn from our young people, so that’s why I’m so thrilled to be at this roundtable today with my colleague, Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy, and our participants: Naheim Banks and Myles Noble, and Dr. Arthur Evans of the American Psychological Association.
Now I will turn it to our Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek Murthy. Dr. Murthy, over to you.