By Valerie Sterns, Vice President of Affiliate Services at Mental Health America
I don't know about you, but I've had a lot on my mind lately. I am angry. I am sad, and I have so much rage because of the recent murder of George Floyd - not to mention the COVID-19 pandemic.
I want to share my thoughts and learn about what others are doing to speak out against racial injustice in America because the death of George Floyd is yet another reminder. Though most people are dealing with COVID-19, black people and people of color are also dealing with racism, another pandemic that has plagued the black community for far too long.
America is supposed to be the land of the free and the home of the brave, but I don't feel free, nor do I feel protected during these unprecedented times. I have two boys, and whenever they go out to the store, to meet a friend, etc., I worry and wonder what's going to happen to them because of their race. COVID-19 has added another layer of stress because we must take precautionary measures and wear a mask to protect ourselves and others. Some of us are reluctant to wear masks because we fear that we will be racially profiled by police, at least the corrupt ones.
It is mentally and physically exhausting dealing with injustices — whether it's microaggressions, racism or bigotry. When you’re trying to manage these injustices, and stick to a daily routine, practicing self-care is often overlooked. But checking in with yourself mentally and physically can have a significant positive impact on your mental health. If you’re struggling, I encourage you to visit MHA Screening and access screening tools and supports to help you cope.
I am grateful to be working for Mental Health America (MHA), a national community-based organization founded on the cornerstone of social justice. MHA envisions a just, humane, and healthy society in which all people are accorded respect, dignity, and the opportunity to achieve their fullest potential free from stigma and prejudice. Read our recent statement When We Normalize Racism and Bigotry, We Do Violence to Our Mental Health, denouncing the murder of George Floyd.
I can't help but wonder, how many of you have written blogs, issued statements, written a Facebook or Instagram post, tweeted, or talked with a black friend, a person of color or someone that doesn't look like you about these injustices?
My dad once told me that "growth happens outside of your comfort zone." So, I want you to be uncomfortable and start the conversation to learn what you can do to hold others accountable for their actions. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."
America is supposed to be a country that believes in human rights, but when human rights are violated, we shouldn't just talk about it, we should take action. Desmond Tutu said, "If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor."
While you may feel limited in terms of what you can do to advocate for social justice reform, we can collectively rewrite the narrative. Let's cast our ballots on election day and make it known to elected officials that we will no longer tolerate injustice in America.