Mom of Texas cheerleader sounds alarm after daughter's death

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Friday, November 11, 2022
Action 13 "Saving Our Black Youth" Town Hall
Join ABC13's Brittaney Wilmore as we explore the factors leading to a rise in suicide risk among Black children and teens.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- If you or someone you know is in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741. You can reach Trans Lifeline at 877-565-8860 (U.S.) or 877-330-6366 (Canada) and The Trevor Project at 866-488-7386.

A tragedy is unfolding among Black families, as new data shows rising suicide risk among Black children and teens compared to their white peers.

A report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows Black youth are among the populations with the highest rates of reported suicide attempts, with 11.8% of Black teens ages 14-18 saying they had attempted suicide over the previous 10 years, compared to 7.9% of white and 8.9% of Hispanic and Latin youth.

Thursday, Eyewitness News senior digital producer Brittaney Wilmore gathered experts for an Action 13 town hall, highlighting what is behind this troubling trend, and connecting viewers with resources that can save their life or the lives of children they love.

During the town hall, we heard from Janice Tappin-Miller, whose college-aged daughter Arlana Miller, a cheerleader at Southern University and A&M College in Louisiana, died from suicide in May after posting an alarming message on social media.

Tappin-Miller was joined by U.S. Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman, of New Jersey, who led the Congressional Black Caucus Emergency Task Force on Black Youth Suicide and Mental Health before the COVID-19 pandemic, in April 2019; and Be Dismond Sweet, a mental health advocate with the Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation, a nonprofit started by actress Taraji P. Henson.

Throughout the hour-long town hall, the panel discussed the stereotypes and misconceptions leading to disproportionate suicide risk for Black teens, and protective factors families and schools can take to help curb these mental health emergencies.

Recent CDC data also showed an even greater difference between reported suicide attempts among Black female students, who accounted for 15.2% of attempts compared to 9.4% of white and 11.9% of Hispanic or Latin female students.

Black girls are now twice as likely as Black boys to attempt suicide, according to a 2021 report by the Center for Suicide Prevention and Research.

Experts told ABC News in July the disproportionate risk for Black youth can be traced to a variety of factors, including lack of mental health care access and awareness of mental illness symptoms, social stigma surrounding this topic, and medical and structural racism.

In Houston, about 15% of Black residents do not have health insurance, according to the ABC Owned Television Stations' Equity Report, compared to about 8% of white residents.

A 13 Investigates analysis of state data found 81% of Texas public school districts did not meet the American School Counselor Association's recommended ratio of a maximum 250 students for every counselor last school year.

We also found nearly 8% of all Texas public school districts could not provide a single counselor or psychologist on staff.

About 12% of Texas public school districts only have a part-time counselor or psychologist.

You can watch the town hall wherever you stream Eyewitness News on your TV, like Roku and Fire TV. Just search "ABC13 Houston."