Mental illness can be cruel. My brother Thomas had the family’s highest SAT score, but he could not finish college. He can do well for months at a time and then become weak, confused, and completely unfocused.

Each year during Mental Health Awareness Month, the National Alliance on Mental Illness sponsors a walk at Railroad Park in Birmingham. Most people who suffer from mental illness are not dangerous, but their lack of social awareness and tact can scare away those who might want to befriend them. Most people who have mental illness are not helpless, but they need some help. Cutting funding for mental health and putting the mentally ill at the mercy of slumlords and the local police is not a policy, but something worse than a public scandal.

At the walk I met Jim Foster (next to me in the middle of photo and wearing a broad-brimmed hat), who helps run a meal and ministry program for the mentally ill on Sunday afternoons at South Highland Presbyterian Church, where there are many unsung heroes for the mentally ill.