M.I.’s 5 Part Community Plan
“Racism is a Mental Health Crisis!”
According to today’s Center for Disease Control, and the National Institute of Mental Health’s research…
- 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. has some form of mental illness or substance use disorder.
- D.C. Health Matters says that approximately 14.3% of District residents show at least the prevalence of depression or some form of mental illness.
- The District has over 700,000 residents, which means that well over 100,000 District residents have mental health realities that require attention, with another unknown amount of residents having mental health exposures but choosing to remain silent about them because of the known stigma that is associated with the acknowledgment of having a mental illness.
- Accountability. The Nation’s Capital is currently failing its families of mental health, and especially those families residing “East of the River”, where the prevalence of adequate and available mental health resources is scarce or seemingly obsolete. In Ward 8 alone there are currently over 200 registered non-profits of which there is no accountability that helps us to understand on any given day, which residents, or how many residents have received, or need adequate mental health services. Additionally, it has not been determined, of these 200 agencies, which are adequately equipped to provide comprehensive mental health resources.
It is the responsibility of the government to be accountable to its citizens for the laws and decisions made that affect their overall well-being and mental health. The government is supposed to be accountable for its behaviors and acts towards matters that involve the public’s right to receive fair and just services to aid in the overall quality of living for all citizens. However, to date, there is a grave lack of accountability for matters involving individuals and families of mental health who have been left to self- medicate and suffer in silence. The lack of accountability involving matters of mental health and the required resources needed for citizens residing “East of the River”, is disparagingly disappointing. Where are the culturally competent clinicians, programs, & resources needed to aid our citizens in their abilities to heal both individually and as a community?
The lack of accountability for mental health resources in communities such as those located in the “East of the River” section of the Nation’s Capital is primarily dangerous because research has shown that in these communities forms of mild depression or anxiety are viewed as “crazy” in many social circles and devastatingly of all, among our children. Mental illness is not viewed as being an appropriate subject matter of discussion among most African American families. Research further supports that more than 1/3 of elementary school-aged suicides involve Black children. The Nation’s Capital community of families who need comprehensive, adequate, and self-sustaining mental health resources, also need an empathetic leader whose agenda for serving the people includes an awareness of the need to address the poor healthcare and increased mental illness and crisis in families across the District.
- Advocacy. Across the Nation’s Capital and especially “East of the River” there are too many families of mental health who are suffering in silence. The strained nature of the District’s social and mental health services & systems leaves many families in under-served communities exposed to matters of a criminal, hopelessness, and immoral nature. Too often are families and children exposed to outdated systems and practices. Many families and individuals are being cared for by a system that violates their civil rights daily with no accountability for having done so.
To advocate is to “add a voice” of support on behalf of someone, who in many cases, are not able to speak for themselves. The lack of the Nation’s Capital implementation of a formal mental health “advocacy” system and network is irresponsible. The statistical data surrounding families of homelessness, gun & domestic violence, in addition to the rising levels of trauma reported illnesses and sex-related crimes, is astounding across the District, and especially “East” of the river. It is evident that the District’s current “core service”, and “social work” systems are not equipped to provide 24/7 care and access to mental health community-level services, which lands many families across the District in the “emergency rooms”, and psychiatric wards across the city, for matters that may well have been treated at home or with the presence of qualified “advocates”.
In the public & charter school systems across the District the inclusion of formally recognized “advocates” to address the bullying, disconnected, suicidal, & individuals in crisis, would tremendously aid in getting the proper services to those families and circumstances that are in greater need, and for those students that require customized care and attention on the schooling level. Additionally, advocates on the schooling level can help aid in the ongoing abolishment of the stigma surrounding mental health behaviors, discussions, and realities. Mental Health advocates help to protect the dignity of our community members and families who deserve and need ongoing compassions, resources, & understandings to help improve their quality of living and education.
Mental health advocates in the neighborhood and on the community level help to introduce awareness and education about mental health challenges to the community. Additionally, advocates help to assure that adequate and stable home life environments and balances are achieved.
The impact of implementing mental health advocates across neighborhoods and communities in Wards across the District would have an immediate effect on providing barriers of safety in the community in which the mental health citizen is shielded from acts of unnecessary violence, and likewise, the community is protected from unchecked, and unaddressed citizens who demonstrate mental health irregularities, crisis, and unstable behaviors.
Furthermore, mental health advocacy in the workplace is also needed across the District, and especially “East” of the river where the prevalence of mental health crisis and stigma go hand in hand. Many of today’s workforce and those located in Wards throughout D.C., are encountering matters of a personal mental nature and are not empowered to have these matters addressed because of the recognized stigma associated with having mental illness or challenges and fear of losing their employment. Thus, the sick is caring for and leading the sick, with no accountability for addressing their own mental ailments. Mental health advocates serve as accountability officers for a Nation’s capital in dire straits of properly treating and providing for families and workers of mental health exposures and realities.
- Education. Mental Health education is needed today more than ever. The history of psychiatry and the volatile acts that have accompanied the many documented cases of research, has left a stain, a “stigma”, on what it means to have a diagnosed mental condition or impairment.
Yesterday’s acceptance and understanding of mental health has put a damper on how folk view and interact with persons of a mental health nature and diagnosis. The District especially has not invested properly in establishing meaningful dialogue daily to help quell the many ignorant and discriminating acts that persons in the mental health community encounter daily. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has reported that when we fail to educate & treat the whole individual about matters regarding mental health, & mental illness, we miss an opportunity to extend that individual’s life.
The Nation’s Capital needs leadership that will help to educate and empower individuals and families to act responsibly regarding matters of mental health. In many cases involving homelessness, violent crimes, unemployment, and the many other circumstances that some communities are struggling to overcome, it is the lack of mental health treatment, resources, & advocacy, which are found to be the most contributory factors and underlining causes.
The District must be the “standard” when it comes to providing quality mental health care and services to its citizens. Education is key! Unless we become a society that is responsible for educating and lifting our citizens out of mental despair, we will remain a society that is responsible for the darkness with which they remain.
- Prevention. Today’s mental health resources and coping mechanisms, when properly administered are progressive in helping individuals and families to vigilantly pursue effective and self-sustaining therapies, and counseling opportunities to aid in healthy outcomes and behaviors. Now more than ever individuals and families are able to set goals and achieve them with the help of solid, comprehensive mental health discussions and communities filled with an abundance of mental health resources to guide families across the Nation’s Capital and especially those residing in marginalized communities in the District, towards responsible and accountable decision making and behaviors.
In the Nation’s Capital, the need for preventative measures that include culturally appropriate resources and education involving mental health is directly associated with the need to address the “cover-up” & “unspoken secrets” in the African American community with respect to matters that are related to trauma, & mental health realities. Families and individuals in the Nation’s Capital and especially “East of the River” need leadership that will demand support groups, transitional, affordable housing programs, resources for unemployment, hunger, literacy, & services for mental health be provided for families residing here, to help aid against the “state of homelessness, joblessness, and under-served community members whose depression and anxiety are “gateway” introductions to more severe mental trauma & illnesses. We need leadership that will educate, empower, and lead the city towards matters of mental health prevention to help propel the Nation’s Capital to the forefront of today’s mental health crisis as the leaders and as the “standard” in care that we should already be.
- Resources. The Nation’s Capital are lacking the proper management and administering of mental health resources. There is currently an ongoing need for “public awareness” surrounding mental health and “public acknowledgment” for the community members that are in crisis daily. The limited nature upon which “mental health” “public service announcement” campaigns are evidenced in communities across the District, where over 100,000 individuals have acknowledged having mental health exposures and challenges, is unacceptable. Additionally, government funded outreach campaigns for mental health “awareness” on the community, school, or District employer, levels are obsolete.
Suicide statistics are growing at alarming rates. Communities and schools across the District and especially “East” of the river have overwhelmingly been affected by the lack of our Nation to properly address matters that lead to and cause depression, anxiety, and other suicidal behaviors and sicknesses.
The leadership needs to increase the visible nature in which responsible and self-sustaining mental health messaging and coping strategies can be introduced and monitored through the implementation of qualified advocates and ongoing educationally supported programming, resources, mental health outreach, and events.
Adequate healthcare, employment, & education, coupled with compassionate & competent leadership should help to transform the conversation for the many families in the Nation’s Capital who need progressive leadership and culturally enriching mental health resources to save lives, immediately.
M.I. Mother’s Keeper has actively begun to recruit community stakeholders to help address the disparity in mental health resources, healthcare solutions, and those social determinants that are keeping our poorest community members from receiving the standards of care afforded to every other citizen residing in communities in the District where racist and oppressed colonial mindsets are at play and involved with the governing of our disenfranchised community member’s well-being.
#MENTALHEALTHMATTERS! #BLACKLIVESMATTER! #SAVEDC!
Rhonda L. Hamilton,
M.I.’s Executive Director
Founder of the Healthy D.C. & Me Leadership Coalition