As you read the headline I’m sure you questioned what relevance Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr is to the discussion of mental health and the field of psychiatry. Rarely do we ever hear people emphasize the importance of following the example of Dr. King in our “fight” against society’s lack of knowledge about severe and untreated mental illness. But Dr. King embodied so many sophisticated qualities that add such a rich tapestry of cultural legacy and inheritance to my own life and society in general.
As I review his “I Have A Dream” speech, I see many qualities that can aid caregivers, families, friends, and professionals during our quest to help the helpless:
- Perseverance: Dr. King provided a wonderful example of perseverance and passion for the pursuit of equality and change. He did not allow the obstacles against him to deter or discourage his plight.
- Integrity and peace: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. sustained a high level of integrity, often refusing to respond to social and racial pressure in negative ways. He held the goals and desires of the oppressed as if they were his own. He did not bully others to support his cause or force others to submit to his political endeavors.
- Knowledge: Dr. King was not only concerned with equality, but also self-knowledge. He educated the world to the personal, racial, and social oppression experienced by People of Color. He encouraged them to know their rights and stand up for them.
- Unity: Dr. King emphasized the importance of social unity in attempting to achieve justice and national attention to a problem that plagues humanity. For the mental health field, it is important that relationships and bridges are built.
It appears that in some states we have made progress in bringing national attention to a much needed discussion on mental health treatment and reform. There are still miles to travel, but allow the wise words of Dr. King to encourage you for the challenges ahead:
…We have…come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism (Martin Luther King, Jr., 1963).
Celebrate this brilliant leader!
National Archives. (n.d.). I Have A Dream speech. Retrieved January 19, 2013, from http://www.archives.gov/.
YouTube. (n.d.). Martin Luther King, Jr.: I Have a Dream speech. [Video file]. Retrieved January 19, 2013 from, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gdTpU5WZHHM.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published January 19, 2013 but has been updated to reflect comprehensiveness and accuracy.