The UCC Mental Health Network Board of Directors desires to add its voice to those who in pain and despair are seeking to express their outrage about the murder of George Floyd and the deaths of so many other people of color who have suffered and died because of the violence born of the systemic racism that has pervaded our country for centuries. We join with the many groups and organizations which decry these violent acts, and we commit to working for a seismic shift in our national consciousness that will bring determined actions toward dismantling racism.
We seek to speak and not be silent, as the deep wound in the whole body politic is being made visible throughout our country. The deep roots of the wound of systemic racism are exposed for all to witness at this time. No one is spared. Who cannot recognize it? Only those who turn their backs, harden their hearts and have no empathy. It is the wound that has been festering for centuries and has tentacles that have strangled the metaphoric and actual airways of people of color.
We agree with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) along with the numerous doctors and public health professional organizations that have declared racism to be a public health crisis. NAMI has published a statement saying, “The effect of racism and racial trauma on mental health is real and cannot be ignored. The disparity in access to mental health care in communities of color cannot be ignored. The inequality and lack of cultural competency in mental health treatment cannot be ignored.”
In addition, the UCC Mental Health Network aligns ourselves with our thirtieth UCC General Synod in its resolution, “Dismantling Discriminatory Systems of Mass Incarceration in the United States.” It “identifies mass incarceration as a critical human and civil rights issue in the U.S. because of its disparate impact on and disenfranchisement of people of color, youth, people with mental illness, and people with limited economic and other resources.” The reality is that at least 1/3 of all persons who are in jail have mental health conditions. We raise the call to require police officers to be trained about how to interact with people who have mental health issues. When ignorance about mental illness combines with racism it creates a double injustice.
Such pain and agony cry out for healing. Such healing is needed, and we need to clearly acknowledge the crushing effects of racism. Such reality has been lived by people of color for generations. Now is the time to acknowledge that reality, to repent for its tenacious grip on us all, and collectively act our way into a new way of being. As we have heard, and now must embody, “there is no peace without justice.”
In a recent panel on anti-racism, a participant asked the question, “What is the difference between a moment and a movement?” A panel member replied, “It is a movement when there is sacrifice.” There are no simple, quick solutions. No band-aid can heal a deep infection. We must listen to those in pain, pay attention to their cries, bring our deepest compassion to supporting those who are hurting and work to find lasting solutions that address the systemic problem causing the pain. We call for a change in police culture where officers are called out and disciplined proportionately for any act of abuse or misuse of power. We must also stand up and speak out against any who continue to oppress people of color and refute those who deny or refuse to acknowledge the real and present issue of racism.
We, the Board of Directors of the UCC MENTAL HEALTH NETWORK, commit to joining our voices and actions with others who are determined to never “go back to how it has been.” The old is passing away and is crumbling, and the new creation may be dawning and yet to be born. We, as the board of directors of the UCC Mental Health Network, pledge to keep before us at all times the urgent work of dismantling racism as we seek to fulfill our mission which is to reduce stigma and promote the welcome, inclusion, support, and engagement of people with mental illnesses/brain disorders and the families in the life, leadership, and work of congregations. We welcome your voice, your insights, and your commitment as we move toward healing and hope.
Rev. Alan Johnson, Chair
Rev. Dr. Rachael Keefe, Vice-Chair
Robin Kempster, Parish Nurse, UCC MHN Secretary
Hannah Campbell Gustafson, MDiv, MSW, UCC MHN Treasurer
Rev. Amy Petré Hill, Member-at-large
J. Gilbert Martinez, MDiv, Member-at-large
Rev. Jack Abel
Bishop Allyson Abrams, DMin
Dr. Vicki K. Harvey
Rev. Dr. Marty Kuchma
Rev. Lisa LeSueur
Rev. Kirk Moore
Rev. Megan Snell
Rev. Shernell J. Edney Stilley
Rev. Dr. Jan Remer-Osborn