In lieu of my usual column, I must discuss something that has been held like a top secret document, especially in Black families — anxiety, depression and suicide.
Let me be clear, there have always been stigmas attached to mental illness, but we continue to see time and again examples of people who we thought “had it together,” who end up committing murder/suicide, amidst their “perfect” existence.
A large part of the problem is that we do not give people permission to be themselves, and there is the added pressure of wanting to be seen as accomplished in the eyes of the world, while gaining access to coveted institutions, and organizations.
Nowhere does it say these kinds of access are ‘fait accompli’once the original high wears off. Anxiety cares nothing about your degrees, fancy homes, etc.. When it strikes, if you have no solid methods in place to manage those triggers, you will only sink deeper into a dark hole, even as you smile at functions, accept awards and soak up accolades being thrown your way.
Too many refuse to seek professional help because they worry about what others may think or say about them. It is, after all, more important to not let the cracks show. Right?
Wrong. According to the Suicide Prevention Resource Center, suicide has gone up among Black people, with a strong indicator of a troubling spike in suicides in Black teen males 15-19
Several years ago, a young lady from a well-known Historically Black College and University committed suicide. Her family behaved as if she hadn’t died by her own hands, but in my head, it was a missed opportunity to speak about something that has been taking a toll among us. Alas, it was not to be, and that was their fundamental right, even as the whispers from those who knew what happened, continued for weeks, and her friends were devastated that her suicide was not addressed.
When I speak with families of color about anxiety and depression, they whisper about it at best, and often stay silent. We see the residual effects in that family member who will most likely use alcohol or drugs to numb the pain that we simply will not openly address. In 2013, a study funded by the National Institute of Health found that five mental disorders — autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), bipolar disorder, major depression and schizophrenia — share genetic roots.
What will it take for us to remove the facades that shrouds us? Why are appearances so important beyond what may save lives?
We have no right to be “shocked” when someone does the unthinkable, when the signs are visible that we choose to ignore because of the reasons we tell ourselves.
How many more must suffer in silence? How many more must die?
Can we allow people the grace and space to say they are not okay and support them? Can we be better?
Can we create a list of professionals who may be able to offer help, enlist support groups, and speak openly to help those in need, cope as best as they possibly can?
Your empathy may just save a life.
Note: If you or someone you know is thinking of suicide, call the 24-7 National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text TALK to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741.
Disclaimer: The advice offered in this column is intended for informational/entertainment purposes only. Use of this column not intended to replace or substitute for any professional, financial, medical, legal, or other professional advice. If you have specific concerns or a situation in which you require professional, psychological or medical help, you should consult with an appropriately trained and qualified specialist. This column, its author, the Philadelphia Sunday SUN newspaper and publisher are not responsible for the outcome or results of following any advice in any given situation. You, and only you, are completely responsible for your actions.