When I get discouraged about how long it has taken me to make progress as it relates to youth mental health, a cause I’ve been pushing for the last eight years, I think about how hard it was for others.
As much progress as Martin Luther King made for civil rights, we’re still not there with equality in fairness as it relates to race. For example, African Americans and whites use drugs at similar rates, but the imprisonment rate of African Americans for drug charges is almost 6 times that of whites. Back in the 90s when we had a crack epidemic, we thought it was a “black problem.” Clearly it’s not.
And turning to mental illness, the leading cause of suicide. Between 1993 and 2012, suicide among African American children across the United States nearly doubled, according to a study published in 2015. Black communities are vulnerable to suicide due to multiple oppressions and less likely to get the mental health care they need as a result.
The changes that Martin Luther King inspired were monumental. Yet there is still more to do when it comes to civil rights. It’s a great example of how long major culture shift takes. I just have to remember that.