Arguably, the only thing better than Rep. Maxine Waters’ skewering of White House weasel and Treasury Department Secretary Steve Mnuchin was the song it inspired—a gospel spin on Waters’ infamous remarks, performed by Broadway actor Mykal Kilgore, that immediately went viral.
It turns out that New York City’s first lady, Chirlane McCray, is also a fan of the song and its message. This past Sunday, which was World Suicide Prevention Day, McCray used the concept of “reclaiming my time” to urge viewers to take better care of their mental health.
In the public service announcement, McCray appeared opposite Kilgore, who’s currently starring in Motown: The Musical.
“I have a message to share with New Yorkers, and Congresswoman Maxine Waters says you’re the guy!” McCray begins.
“You know, there’s still too many people out there with misconceptions about mental illness,” she continues. “There’s so much work to be done to change the culture, but there’s so little time.”
“Oh,” Kilgore says. “So, you’re ready to reclaim your time?”
The back and forth between them is cute, even if McCray sounds a bit flat at times (listen, she’s riffing back and forth with Broadway-level talent, so kudos for trying!). And it’s part of a broader focus on mental health for New York City’s first lady, who launched the NYC Well program in October of last year. That initiative offers free mental-health support for anyone who calls or texts the 1-888-NYC-Well hotline.
Mental health is becoming an increasingly urgent issue for young people and communities of color. The Huffington Post reports that the suicide rate has increased for teen boys in the last eight years, going up 31 percent in that period. The rate was even worse for teenage girls in that same time frame—their suicide rate doubled. Meanwhile, the National Alliance on Mental Illness says black Americans are 20 percent more likely to suffer from serious mental-health problems than the general population.
In fact, numbers from NYC Well’s first year may indicate that many New Yorkers are eager to reclaim time for their mental health. According to the mayor’s office, the free and confidential helpline exceeded expectations, receiving more than 170,000 calls, texts and chats in nine months.
McCray told HuffPost that she hopes other parts of the country will adopt similar initiatives.