In light of recent events, I would like to comment with a quote from Stan W DeKemper, MHAI’s former Vice President for Education, Training and Credentialing & Executive Director of ICAADA, whose memory remains inherent in all we do:
"Remember to remain committed to equality and diversity. We are a richer people, society, and organization when we are diverse. It makes us better, wiser and keeps us grounded in reality."
You may be asking yourself, why would Mental Health America of Indiana care about diversity and the effects of racism? For many, racism often leads to the trauma that can be the gateway to even more serious mental illness and/or addiction.
According to the APA, "Although the chronic condition of stress can have negative side effects on all persons, the unique psycho-social and contextual factors, specifically the common and pervasive exposure to racism and discrimination, creates an additional daily stressor for African-Americans."
Of course, this can also create an overwhelmingly negative socio-economic impact on these individuals, sometimes impacting our communities and public safety. Racism and mental illness further exacerbate the shortcomings of the criminal justice system—negatively effecting both law enforcement and our community. For far too long, we have envisioned a world in which our jail systems were not disproportionately populated by people of color or by those who have a mental illness or addiction. We have yet to achieve these goals and we must now stand up even stronger for a change in our criminal justice system.
MHAI will continue to advocate for change, in which we protect our most vulnerable members of society, instead of incarcerating them. A change in which we connect individuals with mental health treatment professionals and recovery supports. A change in the way we prioritize funding, so as to build community supports systems, peer programs, and treatment services. We must change our primary focus from arresting individuals whose only crime is the color of their skin or their mental illness, or a combination of both--to supporting them and empowering them. The system must do better, and we as individuals and as a state, must do better.
We hope that all who we serve and work beside feel accepted as if they are part of one team, one movement, and one community--striving each day to combat the negative stigma associated with all types of injustice.
We are dedicated and committed to recognizing, addressing, and eradicating all forms of racial injustice and oppression. Some of us have experienced racism personally and directly, while others are made more aware by the events of the day. Personally, I like the slogan “I understand that I don’t understand, but I know where I stand.”
As a national organization, as a national movement, "Mental Health America understands that racism undermines mental health. Therefore, we are committed to anti-racism in all that we do. This means that we pledge to work against individual racism, interpersonal racism, and institutional racism in all their forms.”
If you are interested in community resources to connect with, please visit the following sites:
We must address racism in order to defeat it. Mental Health America is committed to doing both.
Stephen C. McCaffrey, JD
President and CEO of Mental Health America of Indiana