MHA Salutes African-Americans Who Have Contributed to Health and Wellness

SPRINGFIELD — Did you know that Harriet Tubman, an escaped slave who led many others to freedom along the Underground Railroad, suffered a traumatic brain injury as a teen?

The Mental Health Assoc. (MHA), which is dedicated to helping individuals impacted by such injuries as well as those challenged by mental health, substance use, developmental disabilities, and homelessness, is marking Black History Month by saluting African-Americans whose inspiring lives have contributed to understanding and treatment in these areas, as well as recognizing the inequalities that prevent individuals from living their best lives.

Tubman, who also served in a variety of capacities with the Union Army, suffered a traumatic brain injury that resulted in a lifetime of headaches and seizures.

It is estimated that nearly 14 million Americans live with traumatic brain injury. MHA’s New Way Division helps individuals with a disabling brain injury either from a stroke or accident transition from institutionalized care to neighbor residences for more independence and individualized support and the opportunity to attend day programming at its Resource Center.

Others to be profiled weekly throughout Black History Month reflect MHA’s mission of providing services to individuals with developmental disabilities, housing and rehabilitation to those in recovery, behavioral outreach services through its BestLife Emotional Health and Wellness Center, and housing services for the homeless.

Those profiled include social worker Jacki McKinney, who knew firsthand the impact of homelessness, abuse, and addiction, and was presented the 2011 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration’s Voice Awards program for her advocacy in these areas.

Dr. Daniel Collins, a California dentist who died in 2007 at the age of 91, is celebrated for a number of firsts in that state, including helping to found a residential and counseling center for people with development disabilities as well as with the passage in 1969 of what is now known as the Lanterman Developmental Disabilities Services Act that established community-based centers for people with disabilities in danger of being institutionalized.

Another spotlighted individual, Beverly Daniel Tatum is an educator, writer, and clinical psychologist as well as an authority on race relations. Tatum, whose degrees include a doctoral in clinical psychology, was teaching at Mount Holyoke College when her perennial bestseller, Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? And Other Conversations About Race, was first published 1997 and since gone through several editions. She went on to become president of Spelman College, an historically black liberal-arts college for women located in Atlanta, where she established an annual leadership conference for women of color. She was presented with the American Psychological Assoc. Award for Outstanding Lifetime Contributions to Psychology in 2014.

“Black History Month is an integral part of our nation’s tradition in which we continue to promote positive examples of historical events, exemplary leaders, and the many steps taken towards societal change,” said Kimberley Lee, vice president of Resource Development and Branding at MHA. “This reflection is not only deeply meaningful for the African-American community, but imperative for the greater understanding of U.S. and world history.”

Lee hopes each profile the nonprofit is sharing throughout the month will educate the broader community about the significant contributions they have made, while also highlighting the ongoing work of MHA.

February has been celebrated as Black History Month by presidential proclamation since 1976, and this year’s theme is Black Health and Wellness.