Every child deserves to grow up in a community that supports and affirms them for who they are. Unfortunately, when children are perceived as “different” – whether because of their race, ethnicity, disability, place of origin, sexuality or gender identity – they too frequently become the targets of social exclusion, bullying, or efforts to “fix” what is perceived to be different about them.
Our youth are in a mental health crisis in North Carolina. Suicide is now the leading cause of death for youth ages 10-17 in our state — with significant disparities for some youth due to discrimination by race, ethnicity, and/or sexual identity.
For example, Hispanic/Latinx students are twice as likely to report attempting suicide than white students in our state. Students who identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual are more than three times as likely to attempt suicide according to the CDC’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey. A recent survey from Human Rights Campaign Foundation found even higher levels of depression and hopelessness among transgender youth. All of these youth experience higher rates of bullying and community violence than their peers. They are also subject to public policies that can exclude and stigmatize them for their identities.
As adults, it is our responsibility to use our power to protect and nurture the mental health and social-emotional well-being of children and youth. This responsibility extends to public policies and programs that affect children’s lives. Social-emotional and mental health is central to a child’s ability to develop over their lifespan. It cannot be divorced from physical health, the capacity to learn, or one’s ability to thrive.
NC Child condemns any efforts that harm the mental health and social-emotional development of North Carolina’s children and youth.
Children and youth are North Carolina’s most precious investment. Their childhood experiences will have lasting impacts on the social and economic outcomes of our state. Protecting the health and well-being of every child, whatever their race, ethnicity, identity, or place of birth, is imperative for our state’s future.