BLACK VOICES
09/17/2013 03:54 pm ET

Don Lemon: Black Community Must Take Mental Illness Seriously (AUDIO)

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Yesterday, the nation was rocked by yet another mass shooting that claimed the lives of 13 people and, once again, left the country asking questions about the shooting suspect and what could have motivated someone to commit such an atrocity.

After he was identified as the alleged shooter, reports surfaced about Aaron Alexis' history of violence and mental health issues, a topic that journalist Don Lemon felt was especially important for the black community to discuss.

During his bi-weekly segment on the Tom Joyner Morning Show, Lemon took some time to address a disturbing trend making rounds on social networks and share an important message with the black community.

"'If I had a son he’d look like Aaron Alexis'- that is the new Internet meme," Lemon said. "That’s the new hashtag that’s trending on Twitter. If Obama had a son he’d look like Aaron Alexis. If Obama had a son he’d look like the shooter. Or if Obama had a son he’d look and act like Aaron Alexis."

The hashtag is an effort to mock the president's early comments on Trayvon Martin in March 2012. Many took to Twitter, spinning the sentiment around.

And although black males are less likely to be suspects in mass shootings, Lemon pointed not only to examples of mass shootings-- like this one and the Christopher Dorner shooting-- but also brought up the suicides of Don Cornelius and Lee Thompson Young as incidents that should encourage the black community to have a more honest conversation about mental health.

"So here’s something else for you to think about. These incidents will probably increase if we don’t bring something into the light and discuss it. And that is mental health among black people, or the converse, which is mental illness, which are taboo subjects in our community."

He went on to discuss African American's propensity to prioritize prayer and spirituality over seeking professional medical help, and shared his own personal story of discussing his own mental health with his mother. He closed by challenging the community to "wake up to these realities" and make a change.

"If we don’t wake up to these realities, that we cannot pray it away, the next time we see a crime on the news, especially a mass shooting, the first question you might ask yourself; is it the usual one? Oh, no, are they black? You know you all do it; I hope they’re not black. It might be the same one that the haters are posing on the Internet. If Obama had a son would he look like the killer?"

Listen to Lemon's full segment below.

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