Tag: community issues

Black and Disabled: A Death Sentence

Sign disable black lives matter too

Violence against people of color has been in the news a lot. Police are using too much force against them. This is even worse for people of color with disabilities.

This fall, police killed Keith Lamont Scott. He had a brain injury. Charles Kinsey helped people with disabilities. He was taking care of a patient with autism. He was also shot. More than half of people hurt by police have a disability. This should cause us to worry.

We do not know enough about disabilities. People in charge do not either. This puts people at great risk to be hurt by people in charge.

People in charge should:

  • Know how to spot disabilities
  •  Not jump to conclusions
  • Know that many disabilities cannot be seen
  • See their own racial biases

Every human has the right to feel safe. They should feel safe within their own skin. No matter what it looks like. No matter who is inside.


Chokshi, N. (2016, October 17). Keith Lamont Scott was killed by two gunshot wounds, family autopsy finds. Retrieved October 17, 2016 from The New York Times

Harrell, E. (2014, February 25). Crime Against Persons With Disabilities, 2009–2012 – Statistical Tables. Retrieved October 28, 2016, from, Bureau of Justice Statistics

Neyfakh, L. (2016, July 21). Charles Kinsey did everything he possibly could not to be shot by police. Retrieved October 28, 2016, from Slate

Mental Illness Knows No Prejudice

Human Head Silhouette with Puzzle Pieces as the BrainMental illness knows no prejudice. It does not recognize gender or age. It does not recognize wealth, poverty or fame. It does not recognize social status, race, or religion. Nor does it recognize ignorance or denial. Mental illness is a powerful thing. It lives and grows; it affects anyone it chooses. It has no limits or boundaries.

We must look at mental illness analytically, and not as this source of “evil” everyone keeps talking about. We need to look at the root cause of terrible acts, not just the means to the end.

In regard to acts of violence, society continues to look at reactive measures, such as random forms of gun control (i.e. banning high capacity magazines and assault type rifles), and increased jail sentences. I’m not suggesting these aspects shouldn’t be addressed. They are contributing factors and require a realistic focus. But, they are not the answer in matters such as these.

We need to get ahead of these acts, not behind them. We need to be proactive and adopt a complete, multi-dimensional approach in addressing the root causes behind these perverse acts. Most notable are the tragedies involving gun violence, which tend to be enlarged by the media. But let’s not forget the incidents of NFL players who have fallen victim, or the celebrities who have lost their battles with the day-to-day struggles of these same illnesses. I can go on and on. I think you get the point. Although there are many differences between these acts, they all have one common factor underlying the root cause…mental illness.

Experience as a Guide
I have worked in the mental health field for a number of years now. I have seen the effects of mental illness on human beings. I have seen the repeated cycle it tends to take, and how the victims of these illnesses often become the offenders. This chain must be broken in order to stop this violence. Early intervention and a multi-disciplined approach are the keys.

Unfortunately, the mental health system in this country does not adequately address this issue. We disregard it. Funding is not given to sufficiently address these matters. They have fallen by the wayside. We have closed institutions and sent mentally ill people to the streets. We mainstreamed affected children into regular classrooms and just labeled them “problematic”.

We continuously place a stigma on mental illness. This makes it difficult for social acceptance, causing it to repress and eventually resurface in different forms. We need to think at a higher level as a society. Blaming such events on poor societal control is not prudent. Once again, dig a bit deeper. Americans work twice as much as other countries. Yet we have far less time away from work (major stressor) as other countries allow. Perhaps this might have an effect on mental health in America?

Where do we go from here?
Please know I am not attempting to justify or minimize these acts. I am a father, a husband, and human service worker. I too struggle to understand these tragedies. I cannot even begin to imagine the pain caused in these situations for the victims, families, and the offenders. They certainly need support in many ways. I pray they will find peace and eventually heal. I have faith in the resilience of the human spirit.

Mental illness is not a choice, just as addiction and sexual orientation are not. It chooses you. It is not a wonder. It is real. We must address it as a society and as a whole. I encourage you to find ways to accept and support mental health issues in our communities. We must advocate for these issues at all levels within our government. We must work together to ensure adequate resources are made available to address this deficit and encourage further research. We must get at the root of the cause before a spark ignites it.

Lastly, as human beings, we must also demonstrate compassion, support, and tolerance towards each other, and have faith we will prevail. Just as mental illness knows no prejudice, neither does mental health.

For more information, visit:
Improving Mental Health and Addressing Mental Illness
National Institute of Mental Health

Becoming a Leader in Your Community

Last week we were inspired by John, this week it continues with Andrea.

Andrea Kelly is a civic leader in Newton who has been actively involved with the League of Women Voters since the mid 80’s. Andrea is making a difference.

Getting Started

We discussed how she first became involved.

“I was home on maternity leave and was looking for something to do. A friend of mine told me about the League of Women Voters, so I signed up for their monthly newsletter to learn what was happening in Newton,” at that time a bedroom community to Andrea.

The newsletter presented many local issues and ways of being involved, one being observing the Aldermanic Land Use committee. It got her attention, an easy commitment of only two monthly meetings.

So she joined, and began her path to becoming educated.

Educated and involved

As we discussed the League and the role it has played in her life, Andrea described it with passion.

“The League is the only multi-issue, non-partisan, volunteer advocacy group in the community that educates people on an array of  issues.”

For Andrea, that comprehensive education provided opportunities to become involved well beyond land use.

“I became interested in affordable housing and joined the Newton Housing Partnership. As I became connected locally, I was appointed to the Design Review Committee that reviews all projects in the city.” child care and education also became dominant topics during the years her children were in those age groups.

We discussed other ways to become educated and involved.

“Some of the most active civic organizations in our community include churches and synagogues. They address social issues locally, but also on a national and international basis. ”

A leader emerges

In listening to Andrea, I began to realize that she had truly become a leader, respected not only because of her intelligence, but because she was passionate and obviously capable of getting things done.

“When I became an affordable housing advocate, I saw NIMBY (not in my backyard) from people in my own community. While it was frustrating, I quickly understood I had to take a deep breath and realize this was an opportunity for education, rather than becoming oppositional.”

That’s what can happen when you get involved. You learn patience, because change isn’t easy. You learn communication because you really need to listen to both sides. . . And in the process you may find you’ve become a respected leader.

So get involved; the community needs you.

So the Elections are over, now what?

It’s November 3rd, elections are over and you voted. You should feel proud, but have you thought about how you plan to stay active as a civic member of your community?

At this point, you may be thinking that your vote was enough. After all, elections are a lesson in patience and we are all thrilled to see the end of automated phone calls during dinner and negative ads when we were just trying to watch Glee.

But if you really want to be part of your community, you have to do more than just vote. Being an active citizen means paying constant attention to issues that affect all of us. This includes issues for people with disabilities, but it also includes issues that affect the broader community you live in.

Choosing issues that matter to you

There are basically two types of issues you may want to be aware of in your town and state.

First, there are issues specifically affecting the disability community. A reduction in state taxes for example will cut services, which is an important issue that requires your attention.

At the same time, you want to remember that you are also a member of a broader community with additional issues.
Planning on getting older? A proposed senior center may be something you hope to use someday.
Do you have a dog? You may be concerned about having more dog parks.
Can’t afford housing in the town you want to live in? Groups committed to affordable housing may be something to join.

Committed members of your community

This month, we will hear from John Anton an active civic member of his community. John understands the need to pay attention to issues affecting the disability community and the broader community because he is committed to both.

We will also hear from Andrea Kelly about the League of Women Voters, a nonpartisan organization committed to educating people on important community issues that matter well beyond the elections. In addition, Andrea shares her thoughts about a number of ways you can get involved in your community.

lone goldfish jumping into tank with other goldfishIt’s November 3rd and you should be proud if you voted. But let’s take some time this month to also think about how you can be an active member of your community in the year ahead. .. and more importantly, why you may want to.