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“Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health is the most shocking and the most inhuman.”
The legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., is not easily summarized. Dr. King’s advocacy and community outreach in the fields of human rights, anti-racism, and non-violent social change defined the Civil Rights Movement. His philosophy resonates just as profoundly today across the United States of America and around the world more than 55 years after his assassination. Dr. King’s work also continues to inspire the APA Foundation’s (APAF) efforts to connect marginalized and under-resourced groups to the affordable, quality mental health care services they deserve – such as APAF’s nearly 50-year old Fellowship Program, a leadership and professional development program for psychiatry resident-trainees (including the Jeanne Spurlock, M.D. Congressional Fellowship); the Awards for Advancing Minority Mental Health; the Chester M. Pierce, M.D. Human Rights Award & Lecture; the Moore Equity in Mental Health Community Grants program; the Solomon Carter Fuller, M.D. Award & Lecture; and the new APAF My Brother’s Keeper Project, which is designed to combat rising incidences of John Henryism and suicidality among African American/Black men and boys.
You likely know that people of color face a higher probability of struggling with mental health conditions compared to their white peers due to socioeconomic factors, cultural barriers, and the widespread existence of “health care deserts” in more than 80% of counties across this country. What is less commonly known is that Dr. King struggled with his own mental health issues, including an apparent suicide attempt after the death of his grandmother. He also suffered bouts of severe depression during his adult life. In 1959, Dr. King wrote: “What I have been doing is giving, giving, giving, and not stopping to retreat and meditate like I should—to come back. If the situation is not changed, I will be a physical and psychological wreck. I have to reorganize my personality and reorient my life. I have been too long in the crowd, too long in the forest."
“As we pause to honor the life and legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., it is critical that we reflect on how we can better incorporate the principles of belonging, equity, and anti-racism into our day-to-day work inside and outside of the mental health arena,” said Rawle Andrews, Jr., Esq., the Executive Director of the APA Foundation. “Mental health is determined not only by genetics or our childhood experiences, but also by the socioeconomic conditions of our adult lives, as well as the policies that cause these conditions to exist or persist. We at APAF have the privilege of working every day to help those who are suffering in silence with these invisible injuries to take the first step toward a life of mental wellness. Dr. King’s legacy requires that we meet this moment with a movement to show that mental health care works.”
This blog post is the first in a series supporting the My Brother’s Keeper Project, a new initiative under the APA Foundation’s Mental Health Care Works Campaign that is made possible by Alkermes, Inc. and funds designated by the APA Foundation Board of Directors. The My Brother’s Keeper Project seeks to connect with African American/Black men and boys by providing tools, tips, and resources to manage stress and to combat social anxiety, depression, and suicide.