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Statement: “A Youth Mental Health Crisis is Imminent”


WASHINGTON — In observation of the April 18th anniversary of Nigel Shelby’s death, and in response to news of Jo’vianni Smith’s tragic death by suicide, David Johns, Executive Director of the National Black Justice Coalition, released the following statement:

“A national youth mental health crisis is imminent. While many are able to quickly adapt to the rigid isolation demanded by necessary social-distancing, this time will be difficult for many, especially marginalized children and youth. Both Nigel Shelby, who passed away last year, and Jo’vianni Smith, who passed away last week, were only fifteen years old. We must honor their legacies by doing everything we can to ensure we acknowledge and meet the mental health needs of children, youth, and young adults—this is especially true during these unprecedentedly difficult times.

“Before this crisis, we saw an horrifying rise in Black youth suicide and now that many are cut off from the diverse support networks of friends, mentors, teachers, and therapists they may have had, we should anticipate and be prepared for increased need for competent, free, and virtual mental health support.  LGBTQ+ youth especially could face isolation if they are sheltering in a home that does not accept them for who they are and how they show up in the world. We must act quickly so that all concerned and caring adults can ensure the young people in their life are adequately supported, both now and in the time to come.”

The National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC) is a civil rights organization dedicated to the empowerment of Black lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and same gender loving (LGBTQ/SGL) people, including people living with HIV/AIDS.