Dear Son: A Mother’s Experience of Psychiatry, Racism and Human Rights


Dear Son,

I saw what you posted on Facebook and I couldn’t click ‘like.’ Then I had a second thought that I wanted to support you, so I clicked ‘love,’ not because I loved it but because I Love You.

Your Facebook status:

Married man. Two degrees. White collar employed. Self-taught linguist. God-fearing man = Eligible for police brutality (#fact happened b4)

I’m sensible enough to know that my presence in society doesn’t just depend on how “I” see myself or what “successes” I might think I have …love for our neighbors. Fight for our justice. Pray for our freedom. #RIP #AltonSterling #struggle #pray #freedom #justice #love #worldwide

I recognize now that my first thought was one of fear that you were feeling this pain. Fear at the thought of you feeling oppressed. You were brought up between the color lines, living in poverty and educated amongst the affluent people. You wrote in your music about becoming one of the affluent men as you looked at your past as sin that you wished not to go back to again. I was hoping that your walk with God would shield you from this pain. Then I re-read the post and saw that you were speaking your TRUTH.

I know that you feel the pain deeply. While attending school at the University of Berkeley, police officers did surround you with the police cars, lights and a gun in your face while you were riding your bicycle home with a hoodie covering your head to stay warm. The reason? The police said you looked like a suspect that had just committed a crime—a black man wearing a hoodie.

How did this happen? You, being God-fearing, met your wife on your twenty-first birthday and married her five years later. Your wedding day kiss was your first kiss—respecting her and her family, you waited. Your love for the word of God is evident in your being. So how did you get connected to this thing? This thing that is roaming the earth seeking to devour.

The answer is that we all have pain. For some of us it is buried in shame, and let out in anger and aggression toward self and others.

When I was twenty-three, during the first year of your birth, the pain and trauma from my past caught up with me and I was suffering. I did not have anyone in the community who wouldn’t judge me as bad, so I suffered silently. I turned to psychiatry to help me attain a well life like the drug commercials and television movies promised, and the procedure was to label and drug me for almost twenty years. My coping mechanisms were judged as illnesses. Despite having a child in private school, they couldn’t see me as a person worthy of living well.

I did not know the history of mental health, psychiatry and drugging people that I know now. I went in blind, and this is why I continue to share my story—I know for sure that there are many others who do not know alternatives to move forward from anxiety and fear and get to loving themselves and others.

I wanted to spare you, my son, from suffering like I did. I wanted to give you every opportunity I could. You have grown into a good man, a caring and successful man, yet you still have to fear for your life in this country. You still feel pain when you see what is happening.

When you were four years old you briefly took gymnastics, just from me observing the world, seeing what worked well for others and wanting the same well life for you. Your uncle told me that I shouldn’t allow you to take gymnastics because you needed to be tough.

I asked him, tough for what? Of course I knew he was talking about the streets. He lived a street life—guns and drugs—and my other brother, my cousin and many friends had lived street lives and are now dead, in prison or deported.

I remember my brother getting killed less than two weeks after you were born, by a person he’d trusted and shared what he had with. The next day on the news, I saw a black body bag being carried as they mentioned a man being killed on Fifth Street in Bridgeport. To the general public, that is all that my brother’s life was, in the end. We who loved him know better. I cry now as I write that.

But I remember knowing that would not be your life. Reading to you, listening to you, writing for you when you couldn’t write yet but could tell me stories. Teaching you… you banging out your ABCs at ten months old, reading at three years old, attending private schools, ivy league colleges. Business degree, white collar job, connection to your beautiful wife, friends from around the world; best friends that have your back. Frugal money manager, caring brother and uncle, trustworthy and faithful son, compassionate and empathetic toward others. Yes, these are some of the things you do and the characteristics you have earned for yourself. You are so humble about it all.

I know you have pain, son, from the suffering that we endured when you were a child. You used rap music to express yourself through high school and your undergraduate years at college, feeling and healing the pain. I often listen to the music you created back then. I listen to the lyrics and see the pain that you felt and how brilliantly you let it out.

Many people that I have loved came to an early death through neglect or the way that they lived their lives. So many mothers, wives, sisters, brothers, lovers, and friends that I will never know are suffering right now. But up close and personal, I have family members dying young or falling into the prison system. I also have a sister with two sons who just served this great country for thirty-two years in the United States of America’s Army, retiring honorably with a letter from President Barack Obama who also has black children.

I have friends that are younger than me. People talk about the music they listen to and create, the words that they use, the clothes that they wear. Yet no one shows up to support them, so they must seek to take care of themselves through great adversity. Just like anyone else, they are looking to live a well life. I’ve observed that people seem to support people who look or act like they do. My friends that came into my life and supported me to move forward don’t look or act anything like me, but the human connection was made, so I am optimistic that it is possible for all.

I wanted to make this short, but as usual I have gone on and on. I used to say that it’s because I am long-winded, or because I’m a visual person who likes sharing in pictures. It is also the trauma I endured, and the poor education that I received, resulting in a lack of grammar skills. Having a ninth grade English teacher who drew down the shades, put a movie in for the students to watch, and then laid his head down on his desk to sleep through every class.

The school systems in America for people in low-income neighborhoods are mostly inadequate; the pipeline to prison is evidence of this. The parents in oppression going through depression and the trauma of it all need support to move through this pain and help their children. I am always grateful for the support that we received in our lives, and thank God for his grace and mercy that we were able to receive it and give back.

You and your older sister have gotten a great education in this country. You have done your part. And now the law has got to stand up and do what was written down so that all could live well. The country must come to a standstill and make a massive change. We need unity, we need freedom, we need to wake up. It cannot go on like it has been.

I am an optimist and believe in the possibility of change—you can’t live the life I’ve lived and not believe in the possibility of change. But I am not naive enough to think that this country or any part of the world will come to a standstill. There are so many lives being lost every day in war and violence against each other. The refugee situation has left a massive amount of people all over the world without homes. Child porn still goes on. Sex trafficking still goes on. Incest and child molestation are still being committed. The next holiday is being prepared for in stores. People eating a good meal and drinking a fine glass of wine is still happening. Babies are still being born. God is still being praised. Men are still trying to discover the farthest regions of the galaxy and beyond. People can’t find clean drinking water. There is a child going to bed hungry tonight with no food to eat or prospect of any tomorrow. Many more will suffer and many more will die. As Bob Marley says… don’t ask me why.

There are no color lines when it comes to pain. I use empathy to feel this universal pain that Eckhart Tolle writes about in A New Earth—that is happening right now, with me getting to this place today to let it out. I use the gift of tears… so many tears right now.

We all know that Black Lives Matter—this is not a debate. Human beings are all beautiful in the array of colors we are born in. We are the most intelligent species that we have discovered so far on the planet and we are all worthy and deserve to live a well life.

So what is happening?

Again I point to the pain—pain that turns into shame, anger, fear, and then hate. All people have pain, and not everyone knows how to deal with it in a healing away, perhaps because of not being taught. A system of mental health has been set up for people who recognize that we could use help dealing with pain that is hard to reach due to trauma, however, this system has allowed terrible and wrong things to happen to people under the label of psychiatry. People need real support to move through pain, fear, trauma and anger, not getting locked up and drugged against their will.

Sometimes this pain is passed down from generation to generation. In a country dealing with racism, when you put a uniform on a man whose pain hasn’t been dealt with, a man who looks at people with a darker skin color and casts blame, violence is carried out. It is not your fault, son. You are worthy and deserving to walk confidently on this earth. There’s so much anger and aggression, so many people suffering, wanting, lacking and needing. Not everyone is fully aware of why this is. It just is. I believe that to become aware of why is part of the reason we are here on earth.

I make the choice to choose love. I spent many years dying slowly from the pain, and I choose now to live in freedom—what freedom means for me. No one could tell me that; I had to learn it for myself. And I continue learning, about myself and the world around me. I have learned to let go of worry and fear because it does not put trust in God. I have learned that forgiveness heals and that it is possible to move through fear, and on the other side is love. It is with that hope that I write this letter to you.

My thoughts continue to be: On healing… On loving each other… On togetherness… On belonging… On connection… On freedom… On unity… On justice… On peace.

One Love, My Son,



Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.


Mad in America has made some changes to the commenting process. You no longer need to login or create an account on our site to comment. The only information needed is your name, email and comment text. Comments made with an account prior to this change will remain visible on the site.


  1. I believe the police state days are numbered, what is going on is not going to stop until something gives.

    I think most of the politicians and talking heads on TV have never been screwed over by the wrenched system and don’t get that millions and millions of American have and those resentments from being abused by the system don’t just go away cause a politician or TV talking heads said the right words.

    They don’t show it but the law enforcement class that has been abusing the population big time since the 1990s broken windows zero tolerance crap started must be getting worn down by current events, revenue must be down expenses up, their moral is down going home to drink and abuse their families more and more.

    On healing… On loving each other… On togetherness…

    Nope, F them, F their revenue generation scams, F their pullovers and illegal searches, F the drug war

    Do healing love and togetherness when this is over.

    Report comment

    • Cat
      I truly appreciate all of your comments
      I fell and understand your righteous rage and have felt that way myself many maintain times
      I am coming to a new conclusion with studying trauma then restorative justice and truth and reconciliation along with MLK concept of the Beloved Community
      It comes from my experience in and around the disability community
      my social justice reading and work
      and the hell I have lived in the system
      One of the things the disability movement used was deescalting and acknowledging the status of other
      in our society
      Yes and improv work with those afeared
      Easy for those in the physical and DD groups you would say but
      I remember the pure venom that came out at city hall meetings for children’s group homes to be allowed in the neighborhood
      I was taught to acknowledge the disability to put the other
      into a less fear based zone
      Not fair but workable and it paid off at times
      Look at James Taylor and other arist renderings of suffering and trauma
      Can’t do good work holding on to huge hate
      Think on playing cops and robbers as kids
      Did the robbers always stay bad. after the came was finished
      We’re resentments held on to?
      Not likely it. was a piece of time
      That negative role was not the 360 version of themselves even if they acted out while they were role playing
      I think even if the timing is bad we need to. go to the building bridges way even if it doesnt fit well
      Someone has to shake hands with the devil or nothing will ever happen
      And that means shaking hands with those we or each person has labeled Devils in our own whatever you call it community
      Tutu had it right
      Storytelling listening and the beginning of responsibility and then maybe just maybe a step toward forgiveness for others and in my case as I suspect in yours the letting go of self loathing we got from our time in the system
      Let the dialogue begin

      Report comment

  2. Corrine, I am moved by the intensity of your story, and I read on your blog about how you were enticed into the mental health system.

    That mental health system is wrong in every imaginable way. Always it is committed to destroying awareness and making people comply. Every time someone discloses personal affairs to that system, they are hurting themselves and others.

    Drugging is wrong. Psychotherapy is wrong. All of it is wrong.

    It is wrong to talk about whether or not drugs are effective because they are measuring that effectiveness in how well people are placated.

    It is wrong to talk about alternative therapies or treatments because these are still aimed at placating people, making them live with injustice.

    It is all SECOND RAPE!

    The only response is legal and political action. And a psychotherapist is never going to help. They are committed to the idea that inaction is morally superior, as the problem lies within the client.

    I read your blog and it looks like you are trying to drive political action. So you and I are on the same side. Whereas I am opposed to all the alternative treatment doctors, because they are still trying to suppress and abuse people.

    So please continue. We have to find out how to organize and then obtain some concrete objectives. Only then will our stories be legitimated. Without this is all amounts to just seeking pity.

    Easier to talk here, so please join:


    Report comment

  3. You seem to have a clear and focused take on the state of racism and oppression in the U.S. You also seem to know the deal when it comes to psychiatry and its role, and I find little to add. Except:

    “A system of mental health has been set up for people who recognize that we could use help dealing with pain that is hard to reach due to trauma, however, this system has allowed terrible and wrong things to happen to people under the label of psychiatry.”

    In reality the “mental health” system exists primarily to control the disgruntled populace, not to help us with our pain. By redefining our natural reactions to oppression as issues with our own “mental health” the psychiatric system functions on behalf of the prison industrial complex to persuade people that “there’s nothing wrong with us, it must be you.” I trust you will recognize this sort of brainwashing when you see it and help keep Black and other oppressed people from becoming even more oppressed by accepting the machinations (and “medications”) of the “mental health” system.

    Great piece.

    Report comment

  4. Dear Corrine
    I just realized I fell into racism
    I apologize for not acknowledging you by name and also not acknowledging Archbishop Desmond Tutu
    I did it for Frank McCourt and I did it for James Taylor
    This is racism !
    At least I am beginning to become aware
    This is what restorative justice is all about
    Seeing then know legging injustice and walking through the injustice
    Does this make sense to you
    I try!

    Report comment

  5. Corrine, this is a beautifully written piece, it made me verklempt, since I could write almost the exact same letter to my son, despite being white instead of black.

    But I am trying to help educate the black people in my area about the psychiatric industry’s betrayal of humanity. I work with some black pastors, and just two days ago, I emailed one of them this link, with a reminder to him that our organization is an example of how blacks and whites can work together with love and the word of God, rather than hate and divisionism.

    I’m so glad you understand love, not hate, is the answer. And I agree, our current leaders are ruling this country with a divide and conquer strategy, which is a war tactic, and based upon hate. “I believe that to become aware of why is part of the reason we are here on earth.” I’m a truth seeker, too, and I’m pretty certain our current, unjust and un-Constitutional monetary system, and the prejudices of the “too big to fail” European banking families behind the Fed and our monopolistically controlled, miseducated medical industry, are the root causes of this countries’ current problems:

    I do agree with you, “We need unity, we need freedom, we need to wake up. It cannot go on like it has been.” It doesn’t have to go on like it has been, if we can awaken the masses to who it is that did un-Constitutionally take over this country and has been financing the terror, wars, and medical murder of millions. Read a little about what our former politicians said about the root of the evil:

    Personally, I don’t believe war profiteering bankers should be ruling our world, or miseducating our doctors, but rumor on the internet is they do want to rule the entire world, at any cost. And, of course anyone whose read the Bible knows they will be evil rulers, but we’re already seeing that, right? God bless.

    Report comment

  6. I agree fully with Oldhead,

    “In reality the “mental health” system exists primarily to control the disgruntled populace, not to help us with our pain. By redefining our natural reactions to oppression as issues with our own “mental health” the psychiatric system functions on behalf of the prison industrial complex to persuade people that “there’s nothing wrong with us, it must be you.”


    Report comment

  7. Thank you everyone who read this letter, leave a comment and share, I pray for change, human rights and justice for all. Sharing my thoughts are never an easy thing because I have experienced trauma and so at various times I must work through pain connected to the situation I am dealing with. I am also very aware that they’re only “my thoughts,” because of my worldview (IPS). I choose to work on respecting others world view to connect and be peaceful with each other. I want to say that I don’t know of any alternative doctors (unless I count the nutritionist). When I speak of alternatives, I think of being able to sit with the discomfort, practice awareness, forgiveness, empathy, relaxation, personal responsibility to self and society, shame resilience (Brene Brown) hope instead of fear (IPS), validating the traumatic experiences (TIPS Trauma Informed Peer Support), not calling myself an illness (WRAP Wellness Recovery Action Plan) and being allowed to work through the pain and heal (My OWN Life Experience), living and being included in society, etc… there are also spaces like Toivo that offers a holistic healing space, IPS Intentional Peer Support Western Mass Recovery Learning Community that sees the human being and not a diagnosis, and Center for the Human Rights of Users and Survivors of Psychiatry . Believing in God I remain hopeful.

    Report comment

  8. Dear Corinne,

    Thanks for mentioning CHRUSP and for sharing your beautiful letter. What you said about the country needing to come to a standstill, and that it won’t resonated with me. Choosing love and learning that forgiveness heals is a powerful lesson, to be able to go on living in the face of evil directed at yourself and your loved ones personally and in the world. I have been reflecting on the need to ground myself in love and open-heartedness when going to these protests, in the spirit of MLK and the civil rights movement and also Che Guevara, who said the revolutionary is motivated by love.

    Thank you for shaping your pain and learning into something beautiful that keeps hope and optimism alive.


    Report comment