Mental Illness and Racism

What we know about Times Square subway shove victim Michelle Go

In a recent Schizophrenia and the City episode, Michelle Hammer examines the death of 40-year-old Michelle Go, who was killed by a train in Times Square after being pushed into the tracks by a homeless schizophrenic man named Martial Simon. This incident was largely a product of the inadequacy of New York City’s mental illness support systems, but as a CNN article reports, many are viewing it as a manifestation of anti-Asian hate. “You can tell me all you want this is not related to me being Asian but when I look at pictures of Michelle Go and read the story I see myself in it,” asserts Sung Yeon Choimorrow, executive director of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum. As an Asian-American myself, the issue of anti-Asian hate that has spiked during the COVID-19 pandemic is personal. Even so, I believe that it is misleading to label this incident as a hate crime. I cannot say whether or not Michelle Go’s death was even remotely racially motivated, but I do know that focusing in on the race aspect serves only to obscure the fact that Martial Simon had schizophrenia and that the larger issue is likelier a lack of awareness and action concerning mental illness. The less privileged mentally ill bounce back and forth between prisons and under equipped mental institutions, and when they’re not in either they are homeless. The CNN article does not mention that Simon had schizophrenia; it only mentioned that he was homeless. We should be viewing this incident through the lens of intersectionality – that is, by understanding that multiple factors are at work behind the scenes. Asian hate is not the only thing that should change – stigma towards mental health should too.


I'm a high school student dedicated to stimulating conversation around mental health.

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