A prominent state lawmaker who is the only Democrat to chair a Missouri House committee announced Thursday evening in Jefferson City that he will be resigning, for the sake of his health and mental health.
State Rep. Bruce Franks Jr., D-St. Louis, who chairs the House Special Committee on Urban Issues, made the announcement on the House floor before a packed chamber.
Franks says he’s lost his best friend and godson to gun violence in the past year. And Franks’ brother, Christopher Harris, was killed in 1991.
“I’ve fought many battles, but none greater than my ongoing struggle with anxiety and depression. This year, for the first time in my life, I decided to get help,” Franks tells House colleagues.
During an interview with Missourinet in his Capitol office Thursday, Franks says he’s decided to prioritize his health and his family above his political ambition.
“Battling anxiety, depression, mental health issues, especially in the black community, that’s something that’s been a stigma and it’s been frowned upon in our communities to seek help,” says Franks.
Franks tells Missourinet many people in his community suffer from undiagnosed mental health issues.
“I feel like it’s time to take care of myself, and that way I can better take care of my community,” Franks says.
Representative Franks says he’s been dealing with mental health issues his entire life, and that it deteriorated.
After his emotional floor speech, Representative Franks received a standing ovation from both sides of the aisle. Lawmakers from both parties hugged Franks on the floor and were lined up at one point about 20 deep.
Many were Republicans.
During the Missourinet interview, Franks also briefly discussed a January KMOV news report, which quoted current and former employees at the St. Louis Agency on Training and Employment (SLATE) as saying SLATE is mismanaged.
Franks tells Missourinet mentoring sometimes requires being available 24 hours a day, including in the middle of the night. He notes young people sometimes need mentoring at 2 a.m.
He emphasizes the importance of helping and providing resources for mental health, especially in the black community.
While it’s unclear what specific date Rep. Franks will resign, he tells House colleagues he will continue to advocate for social justice.
“I’m a soldier, and soldiers belong on the battlefield. My battlefields are communities that are still fighting for black lives, racial equity, voting rights, criminal justice reform, gender equality, public education, LGBTQ rights and livable wages,” Franks says.
Representative Franks tells the House he’s proud of several accomplishments, including passing a resolution which declared youth violence a public health epidemic.
He’s also proud of securing millions of dollars in the state budget for youth jobs and creating a Veterans’ Bill of Rights.
Franks, who was first elected in 2016, is in his second House term. His priorities have included encouraging minorities to become police officers, getting guns off the streets and rural economic development.
Click here to listen to Brian Hauswirth’s full interview with State Rep. Bruce Franks, which was recorded at the Missouri Capitol on May 16, 2019:
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