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REFLECTIONS ON DISABILITY DAY OF MOURNING

MARCH 13, 2024

ALBANY, NY: On March 1, 2024, the Mental Health Empowerment Project (MHEP) stood united with the Disability Community to mourn the tragic loss of over 700 individuals with disabilities who were murdered by their caregivers over the past five years. March 1st, 2024, marks the eleventh year that the Disability Community has come together to honor these lives and to declare – unequivocally – that such acts of violence must end.

The Disability Day of Mourning is not only a day of remembrance but also a call to action. It is a day to confront the uncomfortable truths about how society perceives disability and the value it places on the lives of people with disabilities. It is a stark reminder that people with disabilities are disproportionately victimized, facing twice the risk of violent crime compared to people without disabilities. Within BIPOC communities, disparities are even more stark.

Year after year, we witness the national media’s coverage of these heinous acts, and all too often, the narrative is skewed. There is a disturbing tendency to evoke sympathy for the perpetrators, framing them as victims of circumstance for having to care for a person with a disability. This narrative is not only harmful but it perpetuates the notion that the lives of people with disabilities are burdensome—a narrative that devalues our existence and justifies violence against us.

The Mental Health Empowerment Project calls for an end to the dehumanization and objectification of individuals with disabilities. We reject any narrative that seeks to justify these murders as merciful acts or necessary evils. Our lives are not tragedies; our murders are. The true tragedy lies in society’s failure to recognize our humanity, our right to live free from harm and our invaluable contributions to the fabric of our communities.

As we mourn, we also stand resolute in our commitment to change. We demand justice for the victims and accountability for their murderers. We advocate for a shift in societal attitudes and media representations, where the dignity and rights of people with disabilities are respected and upheld. Together, we can and must build a world where every individual is valued, supported and empowered.

The Mental Health Empowerment Project extends its deepest sympathies to the families and friends of those we have lost. Let us honor their memories by striving for a future where such senseless violence is unthinkable. Let us remember, let us grieve and let us work tirelessly for change. Together, we can dismantle the narratives that devalue the lives of people with disabilities and ensure that such tragedies are never repeated.

The Mental Health Empowerment Project pledges to continue our work in advocating for human rights, Disability justice and the empowerment of all individuals. We stand with the Disability Community in solidarity, mourning and hope.

Learn more about Disability Day of Mourning here.