Dear Colleagues, Community Friends and Partners,

Over the past three months we have faced unprecedented challenges from a global pandemic. At the same time, we have seen kindness and compassion channeled in the right direction—toward helping our fellow human beings. Somehow, the separation of social distancing has managed to bring us together like never before.

Though now, our hearts are heavy. I have had so many conversations over the last several days where colleagues, family, board, and staff have expressed feelings of incredible sadness, frustration, rage, distress, and even fear over the tragic death of George Floyd. And this is only one in a series of deaths just like it. This only highlights a society fraught with racism where people of color continue to be marginalized and discriminated against. A fact that is disturbing to say the least. Like you, I am seeing troubling scenes repeated over and over from our sister cities around the state and across the country.

Through it all, I am reminded that this organization, the Mental Health Association, was founded on three bedrock principles: respect, integrity and compassion. I embrace these principles in my role as the leader of MHA, and also in the way I choose to live my life in the world every day. In these difficult times we must all decide what we can do, personally and collectively, to drive change, real and deliberate change.

I know that I have the tools to make a positive difference and so do each of you. Each of has a set of eyes, which allow us to see others as they truly are. Each of us has ears, enabling us to listen to another’s life experience, hopes and dreams. Each of us has a voice we can use for peaceful conversation and transparent dialogue that can move us towards understanding, toleration and consideration. Each of us has a brain, and we can choose to educate ourselves to be more aware and make smart decisions for positive impact on our world. Now is the time to check in on each other, speak our truths, and listen with an empathetic ear. We should take heart and, take care of each other.

Even as anger seems to be consuming so much of our country, MHA works for something better. YOU work for something better. Together, we uphold MHA’s core principles of respect, integrity and compassion, every day. These are principles that we can embrace in our own lives and apply as a guide for humankind as we navigate a difficult time in our history. We are the MHA family. We act with empathy and compassion and we honor our differences, always.

In the words of Martin Luther King, “Every society has its protectors of status quo and its fraternities of the indifferent who are notorious for sleeping through revolutions. Today, our very survival depends on our ability to stay awake, to adjust to new ideas, to remain vigilant and to face the challenge of change.“ We can be that change and by doing so we are creating a better, more just world.

I must say we extend our deepest condolences to the family of George Floyd and the countless families who have lost loved ones to such senseless racial violence.

Should you be feeling a sense of despair, frustration, anxiety or uncertainty, please understand that MHA has resources to support you. BestLife, EAP and the empathy of your co-workers or supervisors are there for you. MHA cares by design and in everything we do, so if any organization appreciates the importance of recognizing how we all are feeling, it’s us! While we may not have all the answers, the path forward requires that we have these courageous conversations with one another..

The nature of social distancing means I do not have the opportunity to see you all personally, but please know that I think about you daily. Let us remember that we are all in this together, for the better of every life we touch.