Here we are, citizens of the United States of America and it is July of 2018. Our national conversation around mental illness is full of stigma and innuendo, we only discuss behavioral health each time there is a mass shooting. As a nation we would have you believe that every mass murderer is mentally disturbed. We fail to recognize that by extension we include every person who has any form of mental illness. This is a sad reality that becomes exponentially exasperated when we raise the question of mental well being in the African American community.

When I was a child growing to maturity in a African American family mental illness was a very brief conversation characterized by negative language and imagery. Mental illness was dismissed as a myth with statements like: “there is nothing wrong with her, just leave her alone!” America has failed our citizens who are struggling with mental health and that failure is epic in proportion. That truth is a great deal more toxic among African Americans. We must begin to have an honest conversation about this stain on the Nation’s legacy.

Our fellow citizens deserve that we have a real conversation that continues until we adopt national legislation that seeks to provide mental health care and treatment for every American. A conversation that eliminates stigma and replaces it with compassion, love and understanding. We Americans are capable of great things, let the national conversation begin and may God keep us steadfast until we rectify the conditions that are killing so many of our fellow Americans as a result of neglect.

– Rev. Kinzer Pointer, Agape Baptist Church, President of the board of the Millennium Collaborative Care