Rashod Brown, 29, of East Liberty holds a candle alongside others outside of the McKeesport apartment building where Aaliyah Johnson lived. (Photo by Ryan Loew/PublicSource)

Rally held in McKeesport to demand justice for Aaliyah Johnson and other Black trans people

On Friday, a crowd held candles outside of the apartment building in McKeesport where Aaliyah Johnson lived. They were there to honor her life — and demand a proper investigation of her death. Johnson, a transgender Black woman, died on May 26 after falling from her window in Midtown Plaza Apartments. She was in her early 30s. Her death was ruled a suicide, but friends and family say there wasn’t an adequate investigation and demanded answers.

Our cities are burning, and so is the mental health of this African-American teen

“To be black and conscious in America is to be in a constant state of rage.” —James Baldwin, author and civil rights activist

This is the perfect quote to describe my reaction to the recent events involving Black men that have taken place during quarantine: a constant state of rage, sadness and hopelessness. Perhaps being able to go out and converse with my friends and peers would help me cope with these events, but unfortunately that wouldn’t help with my healing. 

(Courtesy photos)

Mental Health Awareness: These Pittsburghers share the importance of supporting themselves and others in this pandemic

May is Mental Health Awareness Month and amid the pandemic, mental health support is more important than ever. Helpful tips are everywhere on the internet, but nothing replaces personal experiences. So, to amplify mental health stories in Pittsburgh area and curate local perspectives, we reached out to about a dozen community leaders and invited them to answer three questions.

Board Explorer: Understanding Pittsburgh’s unelected power structure

The Pittsburgh region is run in large part by more than 500 unelected board members of authorities, commissions and other governmental agencies. Board members usually don’t get headlines. Those go to the mayor, the county executive or, occasionally, council members, controllers and directors. But boards often decide what does and doesn’t get built, who gets contracts and grants, what rates and fees we pay for everything from bus rides to water, and more. Now, as the region copes with the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, the operations of those boards are likely to affect our lives and futures more than ever. Already, boards are switching gears from managing growth to addressing an economic emergency. It’s time we got to know them better.

Worry, joy, ambivalence, relief, dread: Pittsburgh-area residents describe the first days of life in ‘yellow’

Allegheny County moved from phase red, which required everyone to adhere to a strict “stay at home” order, to phase yellow. Now some nonessential activities and businesses could open.

The number of coronavirus cases had fallen over time but there were still dozens of new cases each week. It was unclear how many people would risk venturing out into public and whether those that did would adhere to social distancing guidelines.

Quick to judge: Let’s reform how healthcare workers treat people with substance use and mental health disorders

The emergence of COVID-19 has put health care in breaking news. Every day, we hear of the tragic deaths due to this pandemic. We are also hearing of heroic efforts by healthcare workers, what they are doing for their patients and how communities are coming together to help one another out in this trying time. COVID-19 has also exposed weaknesses in the U.S. healthcare system, like the lack of personal protective equipment, poor regulations on long-term care facilities and poor response from government agencies. 

Another weakness to consider is the stigma and bias that those with mental health disorders and substance use disorders experience in the healthcare system. The bias and stigma come directly from healthcare professionals. 

I know firsthand the effects of stigma and bias on patients because I have been working in health care for 22 years; 19 of those years have been serving people with mental health and substance use disorders.