Panelists Discuss the Realities Behind Mental Health and Incarceration

By: Miya Jones
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Panelists Discuss the Realities Behind Mental Health and Incarceration

When it comes to mental health in the Black community, it is a taboo subject that’s not often discussed. Some may say it’s not a big deal, but during Cornerstone Unlimited‘s conversation, panelists talked about the ways in which mental health shows up in the community, especially when the prison system comes into play.

“We tend to ignore real situations that go on in our community,” said former Hip-Hop Artist-turned Community Activist Curt Cain. He is now working to create a mentorship program for kids called Kid Chaserz. He said services are often available after someone’s been incarcerated, but there’s a need for more proactive and not reactive services. “We try to catch the problem after it’s already happened. We need to get ahead of it.”

Cain spoke from experience as he described what the process was when he was incarcerated and how your mental health can be affected by the experience.

The Bureau of Justice Statistics reported that in state prisons, 73% of women and 55% of men have at least one mental problem. In federal prisons, it’s 61% for women and 44% for men. In local prisons, it’s 75% for women and 63% for men.

“When I first went in when I was younger, I saw that people were putting their milk in the toilet,” recalled panelist Dr. Ulysses Jackson. “I was like, that’s disgusting! By midnight, I was saying, ‘Whose milk is this in the toilet can I get some?’ If I want to get a Pepsi with ice I understand it’s a privilege. That’s part of post traumatic stress. Those experiences don’t leave you.”

He said those minor experiences can impact your life forever, and that men being raped and other crimes committed inside can do even more damage.

Dr. Jackson went on to turn his life around and co-found The Just 4 You Family and Support Services Center in Bohemia where the conversation was held. At the center, several services for families, individuals and children are offered. They specialize in helping those who have been imprisoned. Dr. Jackson emphasized the importance of initially establishing a relationship when trying to make progress with a client.

Panelist and Community Activist Apryl Smith, who works closely with Curt Cain, also has experience assisting people with mental health issues and has experience with the prison system from a different perspective.

“When a parent does a bid, your child does that bid with you,” said Smith whose father was incarcerated for 10 years. She now works as an administrative assistant at the Association for Mental Health and Wellness and educates the community about mental health through events and outreach programs.

The association also has initiatives in which they reach out to those who have been incarcerated and help them transition into society. They assist with food stamps, transportation, housing and rebuilding family relationships.

To see the full conversation, click here and if you or someone you know is struggling with their mental health, refer to the links above.

Miya Jones

Miya Jones

Miya Jones is a Long Island native and the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Shades of Long Island. She's been a journalist since the age of 17 and is a diversity advocate. Follow Miya on Instagram and Twitter: @miyajones1996 and on Facebook as Miya Jones.

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