World Mental Health & Indigenous Peoples Day

Despite my best intentions of posting on world mental health day and indigenous peoples day, I missed the boat. However, I’d like to share some thoughts about these two important topics.

As a Puerto Rican, I often think of how the Spanish colonizers changed Puerto Rico, wiping out the lives and culture of the Taino natives. Having travelled to Yellowstone, and visited the memorial site of the Battle of Little Big Horn, I was deeply moved at how, in the name of ‘progress’ we treated the Native Americans who lived on this land for centuries before us.

All this just reminds me of the imbalance between those who hold power and those who don’t, particularly minority and marginalized groups We have unfortunately not gotten much better over the centuries. Native Americans today have a much higher rate of poverty and mental health issues. Unemployment is much higher than the national average both for Puerto Ricans and Native Americans. The very fact that Puerto Ricans cannot vote in the final elections for president of their own island, is an injustice that doesn’t escape me. Indigenous peoples day is a reminder, and only a drop in the bucket, of how the lack of equity continues in these marginalized groups.

Research clearly shows the impact of equity on medical and mental health issues. The cost of mental health in the United States is estimated at $300 billion per year. We know the lack of equity and inclusion also has an enormous impact on productivity and innovation. And still our leaders both in business and in politics are often blind to the need to address these systemic and human inequities.

I don’t think we can ever fulfill the promise of this nation if we continue as we are. I hope each of you in the work that you do is able to create some change in a positive direction. We are only as strong as our weakest links.