Every day, New Yorkers encounter so many mentally ill people, whether on the street or in their own buildings. The most recent data for New York shows that some 95,000 New Yorkers with serious mental illnesses, including bipolar disorder, have not received mental health treatment in the past year. There are fewer mental health beds than ever. Very few of the people who need mental health treatment the most can either afford medication or manage to adhere to it.
In Black and brown neighborhoods, we hesitate to call 911 because we know it can end in death. The death last Wednesday in Crown Heights of Saheed Vassell, who was fatally shot multiple times by police officers for brandishing what turned out to be a metal pipe, is the latest reminder.
Reading that Vassell was bipolar and Black, I was transported back to that apartment with my mother, where even as a frightened teenager I understood how important it was to protect my mother’s life as well as mine.