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Mental Illness Divides a Nation

Disclaimer: There are graphic descriptions of violence in this article

Someone please, I beg you, help me understand!! I’m desperate to make sense of how mental illness is a completely different ballgame depending on the race of person living with it. When black people and other people of color have mental illness, it’s a crime, for which they should be incarcerated, tortured and killed. If you think I’m being dramatic, let me remind you that Matthew Ajibade, a computer science college student in Savannah, GA was arrested due to a manic episode that resulted from his Bipolar Disorder and was videotaped being repeatedly kicked, punched and tasered in the genitals while tied to a chair by white cops. He later died in an isolation cell at the tragic age of 22 due to ‘blunt force’ which was deemed a homicide by the County coroner. The cops involved were fired from the police force and then acquitted by a jury of any manslaughter charges.

For white people, mental illness is a yawn-worthy, non-issue that prescription drugs should manage just fine. And when pills and therapy fail to subdue white men, we shrug when they go haywire and shoot up movie theaters, elementary schools, churches, and colleges. Why, when these men go postal, does our country shine the spotlight on the therapists who ‘should’ve done something’ to prevent it? There’s ZERO accountability when white men with mental health problems hurt people. While dangerous, white men hide behind mental illness, women and children of color whose primary mental health issues tend to stem from issues of poverty and intergenerational trauma, are served jail (if not death) sentences for their mental health challenges. As we well know, our prisons are stacked with men of color and in 2006, between 45-64% of the people held in state, federal, and local jails had ‘mental health problems’ (An interview with Ta-Nehisi Coates, exploring the myth of black criminality). Why, why, why are we, as a country and culture, so determined to permit the genocide of blacks by ‘mentally ill’ whites?

The real therapeutic work and rehabilitation should address the larger mental illness of modern day white America‚Ķdenied hatred. A mental health therapist tries to help people see how their internalized messages and beliefs, conscious and unconscious, influence one’s behavior in a manner that obstructs them from achieving what they want to achieve.

We as a country, ‘say’ we want equality and peace and a few of us even want reparation for black communities, but we deny how our unconscious, intergenerational hatred of black people influences our repeated acquittals of white killer cops and mass shootings. Therapists can’t help people who aren’t willing to see the truth and own the truth. Many white Americans have no incentive to face the truth and reap the benefits of therapy as long as they can get away with murder because they are ‘mentally ill.’

I am a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in the state of California. I want to help white men face their institutionalized racism and their irrational fears that fuel hideous aggression and heinous violence. I want to validate the mental health challenges of people of color because that pain is profound. I want to provide a safe, healing refuge for people of color to express and be heard in their daily mistreatments by whites and the systems we’ve built to keep slavery alive. I want to help level the mental health field and listen to the voices that are still habitually squashed. I’m ready to sit in the pain and anguish and do the real work of dealing with the ugly truth of a racially divided nation.

We are all mentally ill. Let’s get help and help ourselves!