May 24, 2024 - News

Detroit councilperson shares struggles with anxiety and seeks residents' input

Illustration of a health plus on a therapist couch.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The city's longest-serving councilperson is opening up about his struggles with anxiety as the health department launches a novel survey to gauge residents' mental health attitudes.

Why it matters: City Council President Pro Tem James Tate — first elected in 2009 to represent the northwest side — shared his mental health struggles to encourage residents to complete the health department's anonymous mental health survey.

  • The goal is 5,000 responses to help city leaders identify and fund solutions.

What they're saying: "I am someone who has severe anxiety and I've had it for a number of years now," Tate tells Axios Detroit.

  • "I was very guarded about it. But at this point, there's much more to gain than lose by being vulnerable in this situation. So I'm willing to take the risk."

The big picture: Americans have cited poor mental health as one of the biggest threats to public health.

Zoom in: The police department has expanded its crisis intervention team under chief James White.

  • The city used $3 million from the state last year for 11 mental health police responders and 14 neighborhood officers, BridgeDetroit reported.
  • Police responded to 16,003 mental health assistance calls last year and 4,617 suicide-related crisis calls.

Yes, but: Police aren't always the best equipped to help with mental health, Tate says, adding that some residents don't know where to start or who to call if they're not feeling OK.

Caption: Councilperson James Tate at a community meeting this month. Photo: Courtesy of the city of
Councilperson James Tate at a community meeting this month. Photo: Courtesy of the city of Detroit via Flickr

Between the lines: Ultimately, Tate wants to advocate for new laws and policies to improve access to mental health services.

  • He cited a bill that Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed this week to require insurers to cover mental health treatments at the same level as those for physical health.
  • Tate says mental health advocacy has always been an interest of his, but he previously focused on other priorities, such as his Task Force on Black Male Engagement.

The intrigue: Tate even wrote and recorded a theme song for this mental health campaign — "Protect Your Crown (and all the way down)."

  • "I'm in my feelings, I need some healing or just some time to myself," Tate raps. "Get away, collect my thoughts. Nothing wrong, I'm still strong."

Tate's anxiety stems from "this innate desire to be perfect in everything that I do," he says.

  • "That puts a level of unreasonable pressure on me in ways that my body doesn't always know how to adjust toward."
  • The song is a way to express his experiences with anxiety and how he manages them. He's also been in therapy.
  • "I've never done anything like this before, especially in this capacity," he says. "If a little bit of embarrassment leads someone to getting the help they need and deserve, then it's all worth it."

Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Detroit.

More Detroit stories