In retrospect of the recent influx in violent deaths in the Black community of and by people who have been diagnosed with a “mental illness”, I believe now is the perfect time to really forge the conversation about “mental illness” in the Black community. 

There has recently been a string of deaths and murders that in some way or another, tie back to “mental illness.” Particularly in regard to Black and Brown people, it seems like at least once a month, there is a new incidence with deaths related to “mental illness”. Inspired by a LinkedIn forum, to re-engage in this conversation again, I simply want to take time out for remembrance. 

I’ve previously written about the nature in which we label people as mentally ill, challenging the often free willed acceptance of applying labels that we don’t fully take time to understand. I’ve acknowledged time and again, the stark correlation between prevalent suicide rates, and long-term battles with “mental illness”. 

It doesn’t go without mentioning, the overwhelming stigma applied to mental health conversations, and the impact such stigma has on the “mentally ill,” who already represent otherwise marginalized communities. I’ve personally even spent time in a mental institution, committed illegally and against my will. Thus, I have the most profound and introspective perception of mental health politics in this country, particularly relating to Black and Brown, poor, spiritual and non- native speaking communities.

“Let us remember Miriam Carey, the mother driving with her child in the car, who was shot and killed near the White House, by U.S. Capitol police.”

In addition, I have even taken a stab at discussing the correlation between Black and Brown suicide prevalence and lacking conversation about mental health issues in the Black community. So, for this conversation starter, I’d just like to remember. Remember all of the Black and Brown people who have lost their lives, fighting what we call and yet, ignore as a “mental illness.”

Let us remember Miriam Carey, the mother driving with her child in the car, who was shot and killed near the White House by U.S. Capitol police. Let’s remember all of those incarcerated for, and/ or by way of actions, lifestyles and perspectives criminalized as conditional of “mental illness.” 

mental illness

Let’s remember those blessed souls, deemed “mentally ill”, who were killed by police in the past year. Let’s remember Darrius Kennedy, the “mentally ill” man “wielding” a knife in Time Square, who was shot and killed by police. Let’s remember Mohamed Bah, deemed “mentally disturbed,” who was shot and killed by police responding to a routine call for help, made by his mother. 

Lest us not forget, Glenn Broadnax, a man who deemed “emotionally disturbed,” was shot at in the middle of Times Square, for wading in traffic on 42nd street. Though, the officers didn’t kill Glenn, they wounded two by-standers, and skillfully held Glenn responsible for the shootings, charging him with assault.

“All of these women and men, children and parents, faced issues that were capable of solving.”

May we always pay homage to the young, Tanisha Anderson, killed by Cleveland police during a routine call to her house, by her mother who was seeking help, but was met with horror. There is of course, the defamed and dehumanized Ismaaiyl Brinsley, who deemed “mentally ill,” allegedly shot and killed two NY police officers in Dec. ’14. 

We must also remember Calvin Esdaile Jr., the former Home Depot employee who shot and killed himself and his supervisor, Moctar Sy. And let us remember Jonathon Walker, the father and boyfriend of Queens, NY, who killed his whole family in response to alleged infidelity and jealousy.

All of these women and men, children and parents, faced issues that were capable of solving. Understanding. Curing. They were, are, issues that are human. Worthy of human concern and care. Instilled in human uniqueness and flaw.

Because, after all, these were, are, human beings. We are human beings. Those “things” you label as “mentally ill,” are actually people. Humans. Complex, creative, unique people. Worthy of love and life. Yes. Worthy of life. Very much so, in fact.