NAMI Minnesota is Committed to Fighting Structural Racism

NAMI Minnesota grieves the murder of George Floyd. We extend our sympathy to his family, friends and community. We know that more must be done to address the structural racism in our communities, state and country. As an organization dedicated to improving the mental health of Minnesotans, addressing racism and racial violence must be part of our work.

It’s constant, big and small. Big acts of racism such as police killing Black people, and small acts of micro-aggressions such as a White woman clutching her purse when a Black man walks by. All of these acts lead to “weathering” the breaking down of one’s spirit, the erosion of one’s mental health.

George Floyd’s death has had a profound impact on the mental health of African Americans in particular and of all indigenous people and people of color in our state and our country. An alleged fake $20 bill brought not two, but four police officers. Four officers trying to take someone allegedly committing a nonviolent crime to the jail during a pandemic. A time when law enforcement was trying to avoid bringing people to jail for nonviolent crimes.

After standing for 8 minutes and 46 seconds during his funeral, we all knew it wasn’t any underlying conditions that killed him. It was the knee on his neck. This fact has left people of color in grief, traumatized again by the indifference to their lives.

What every mental health organization – provider or advocate – needs to acknowledge is that racism impacts people’s mental health. And structural racism has resulted in redlining, which has led to poverty, inadequate schools, food deserts, neighborhoods bordering polluted land, blockages to home ownership and more. This has impacted people’s health and mental health.

The solution is not just to increase the number of culturally specific mental health professionals, or culturally informed mental health professionals. The solution is not to simply require more training of police on implicit bias and dealing with a mental health crisis. The solution is not just to provide more training on trauma informed care.

While all of those solutions are important, the real solution is to address structural racism and racism in all its forms – the very thing that leads to weathering that negatively impacts indigenous people and people of color’s mental health. Racism is a public health issue and flitting around the edges won’t lead to the permanent solutions we need.

NAMI Minnesota is committed to listening, learning, and examining our work to address racism. Right now, due to Mr. Floyd’s murder and COVID-19, our collective mental health is suffering – whether its individuals experiencing trauma, providers experiencing secondary trauma, people with mental illnesses experiencing increased symptoms, or children and adults experiencing high stress due to stay at home orders. NAMI Minnesota commits to promoting and supporting the emotional well-being for all members of our community as we move forward. Please see our website for a list of culturally responsive resources.