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New York’s First Lady Gets Real About Mental Health

February 27, 2015

Chirlane McCray is one of the things New Yorkers liked about Bill DeBlasio when they elected him mayor of New York City in 2013. The family made such an unforgettable picture—the very tall white guy with the very short black wife and two quite colorful children. Bill and Chirlane seemed like real people who were comfortable being different and letting their kids be different.

Of course Bill and Chirlane also had a record of being fierce and fearless advocates. And we’re thrilled that Chirlane has decided to use her role as New York’s first lady to focus on mental health. She’s speaking out about, and collecting data about, the disturbing number of New Yorkers who don’t have access to good mental health care. And she’s being real about it: She published a piece today in the New York Daily News in which she writes about her struggles to find the right care for their daughter Chiara, who has struggled with anxiety, depression, and addiction.

Like so many parents we hear from, she found it daunting to understand what Chiara needed and to respond effectively. “Our child was in terrible pain, but because it originated in her brain and not another part of her body, there wasn’t an established series of steps to follow.”

The DeBlasio family is lucky, she notes, because they had the resources to get good treatment for Chiara, who she reports is doing well in recovery. But she hasn’t forgotten what it was like:

Even after our crisis ended, I couldn’t forget how scared and helpless I felt during those first frantic weeks. So I continued my research, wanting to understand how other people manage in these situations, especially those who don’t have the same advantages as us.

Read the rest of her piece to see what she learned, and what she plans to do to help New York City develop a more inclusive system—one that acknowledges the very real obstacles that prevent people from getting care. As she puts it, “When I say a ‘more inclusive’ system, I mean one that meets—and treats —people where they live.”

Tagged with: Mental Health, Public Policy