Steil leads GOP effort calling for release of most-recent data on youth suicides

Ahead of the national launch of the 9-8-8 Mental Health Hotline, U.S. Rep. Bryan Steil (R-WI) led 19 of his Republican colleagues in requesting that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) release finalized 2021 data on suicides among children in America as soon as possible.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated a worsening crisis in our society: our children’s mental health. The data on suicide rates among children is an important tool needed to strengthen our mental health infrastructure,” Rep. Steil said on July 1. “As we approach the coming school year, this critical data will help us make informed decisions to support our children and improve their mental health.”

Rep. Steil and his colleagues sent a July 1 letter to CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky noting that while the provisional data has been released, they want to know “why the CDC has not released the final data that is a critical indicator of our children’s mental health.”

“The data shows the scope of the crisis we are facing,” the representatives wrote. “If we are to better meet the needs of our children we must take long-overdue steps to strengthen our mental health infrastructure. This must be a top priority.”

Rep. Steil and his colleagues cited data from a 2020 CDC study reporting that U.S. suicide is the second-leading cause of death among youth ages 15 to 24 years, and that as a long-standing problem, youth suicide has been worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic, which closed schools, disrupted routines and placed more stress on children and their families.

“Clearly, even before the pandemic, America was experiencing a mental health crisis among children and adolescents,” they wrote. “The pandemic further exacerbated this problem and strained the healthcare system, leaving children to struggle with unmet mental health needs.”

In their letter, the members asked that Walensky work with them to address the mental health outcomes for America’s children, an area in which Rep. Steil has been active since arriving in Congress.

Among the members who also signed the letter were U.S. Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Brian Mast (R-FL), Don Bacon (R-NE), Brad Wenstrup (R-OH), Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R-IA), and Jackie Walorski (R-IN).