Submitted to the AFRO by Dr. Tonya C. Phillips

Baltimore City has once again made national news with the recent scandal concerning its Mayor. Local and national media outlets have ensured that the public has had access to the events related to the ongoing investigation and many have even called for her resignation. Much of the dialogue and speculations about what is happening with the Mayor has been derogatory. Assertions about the Mayors absence from the public, shaming messages, commentary on the trajectory of her career, and plans to move the city forward are all topics of discourse; however, no one has posed any questions about her emotional health and wellbeing.

Dr. Tonya C. Phillips, CEO of Team Phillips Consulting Group. (Courtesy Photo)

As a mental health professional and proponent of mental health services in African American communities, I know too well the realities of un-addressed mental health conditions in urban environments. Despite the commonness of behavioral health concerns in urban populations, there remains significant gaps in knowledge and understanding of mental health signs and symptoms among oppressed groups, individuals of color in particular. These gaps are further complicated by silence, avoidance or denial  associated with mental and emotional health.

The state of emotional and mental health of the Mayor is especially urgent when we consider that Baltimore has been under fire for some time and now she has an experience that ultimately  could alter the course of her life. Cumulative stress, open humiliation and negative fire from the community increases the risk for decline in emotional functioning for the Mayor. We cannot afford to continue with “business as usual” and  ignore the critical role that crisis, stress, shame and open humiliation has on one’s mental wellness. The mayor’s lawyer recently stated that she is not “lucid enough” to make a decision about her future as Mayor. What, if anything are we prepared as a people, and as a city, to do to address the emotional  and mental lucidness of the Mayor?

Shame and cumulative stress has the potential to change the way we view ourselves or feel about ourselves and it could lead to long-lasting emotional and mental health challenges. Perhaps, the mayor has not responded because she is not in a good mental or emotional space to do so. This commentary is not intended to address the legal or moral aspects of this case, rather it is a call to action to our community to change the narrative and examine this from another perspective. If we are interested in bringing real solutions to Baltimore, we will have to begin to have a conversation about the realities and nuances of mental and emotional health (even for the leaders) in our community and how we respond. We all have a duty as a community to support and debunk the myths that has served as stuck points in our change and be concerned about each other’s health and well-being. In this situation WE MUST simply change the dialogue and pause to ask the question What about her mental health?                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Dr. Tonya Phillips CEO of Team Phillips Consulting Group is a licensed mental health professional with multiple years of  professional practice experience. Team Phillips has partnered with community organizations to provide mental health awareness,  trainings and seminars, aimed to reduce stigma associated with mental health concerns.

The opinions on this page are those of the writers and not necessarily those of the AFRO.
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