Let’s Talk About Mental Health In the Black Community: Part Three

In the conclusion of this topic, I’m going to talk about suicide. Suicide is a taboo subject, especially in the Black community, and honestly, I understand why. Who wants to talk about death, let alone killing ourselves? It’s a morbid subject to bring up to begin with, and most people I know would only talk about it while drinking gin, a 40, or smoking weed. So why am I talking about this subject? Because it needs to be talked about.

As an Army veteran, I can talk to you about how many vets commit suicide a day. But I’m not going to do that, even though it’s very significant and troublesome.  I’m not going to throw at you a bunch of numbers on how many Black men, women, and children kill themselves every year, whether intentional or unintentional. All of those things you can look at on your own. What I will do is include a couple of important numbers at the end of this piece for you to call if you or anyone you know is considering suicide.

We grew up looking at suicide is a sign of weakness, as though you’re giving up. In a sense, that’s exactly what it is, but not in the fashion that we grew up to believe. We grew up believing that it was a coward move, a bitch move, to kill yourself because you think that your life is so hard. Look at all of the people who are missing limbs and still make it (I actually received this lecture before). When a person attempts to commit suicide or succeeds, it’s a desperate attempt to escape from the pain that we’re faced with. You see, mental illness distorts your world. You can be in the middle of absolute bliss, but your disorder distorts it into darkness and illusions. Suicide is that last attempt to escape from that distortion, because it’s literally wearing you down. So it’s not a coward move, it’s an attempt at relief.

Life is hard for everyone, but mental illness makes life so much harder. That’s something that we all have to understand. Life isn’t perfect, but mental illness can destroy what little sense of perfection that you have. That’s only if you let it.

I hate when people talk about a person who committed suicide by saying their souls went to Hell. I also hate when people use this logic to convince people who are thinking about suicide to scare them straight. It’s selfish on the part on the person who is giving this speech. Instead of telling them they are going straight to Hell in a gasoline basket, let’s try something. Help them! You know, get them to a hospital. Be a friend. Be a spouse. Be a family.

When I found myself on the brink of suicide years ago, all I cared about was shedding my existence and being less of a problem for everyone around me, because I knew my bipolar disorder, especially my depression, was draining everyone. It wasn’t about me being selfish, I was actually looking out for everyone else. Someone once told me that it would be selfish to do so, knowing how many people would hurt and miss me. I countered by saying that it’s selfish for people to want me to stick, knowing that I’m in misery, simply because they don’t want to hurt. I compared it to keeping someone on life support when they are clearly dead, simply because they refuse to let go.

But the option of suicide wasn’t my right mind. It was the disorder. That’s the point I want to get out. Again, it’s not something that you can just snap out of, but with the right help, that person can recover. I got through it because I remembered that I had a purpose that needed to be fulfilled, and God simply wasn’t ready for me to come home until I fulfilled that purpose.

I know a lot I talked about seemed general and not necessarily directed towards the Black community, but I’m using my experiences to talk directly to my community. We need to talk about this big ass pink elephant in the room. It’s an important step to help us move forward as a people. We have enough issues as it is and we have so much to overcome. Let’s break away from the age-old barriers and stop with the whispers and side looks. Let’s stop ignoring that guy who clearly has mood instability issues, or that young mother who is dealing with postpartum depression, Let’s stop being ignorant to the issue of mental health, because all it is doing is further destroying our people.

Eventually, we have to wake up and smell the coffee on this one, because mental illnesses are very common, no matter the race, nationality, age, or sex. It’s not going to go away. Instead of saying he/she is crazy, let’s educate ourselves and help them. If they are on the edge of suicide, get them the help they need without judging. Know the signs. You could literally be the one saving a life.

Suicide is a real issue and it’s nothing to joke about. We’re losing a lot of good people because of this. If you, or if you know someone who is thinking about committing suicide, get emergency help immediately. Do not treat it like it will simply pass over, no matter how much they try to convince you otherwise. Every second counts. You can also call these number:

  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255 (If you’re a Veteran, press 1 when prompted)

Your call will be confidential, so you won’t have to worry about being judged or criticized. They are simply there to help.

In addition, if you need help educating yourself about mental health, whether you’re a sufferer or a friend or family seeking information to help a sufferer, a good start is the National Institute of Mental Health, which you can go to by clicking this link: www.nimh.nih.gov. The more you learn, the better. There’s also tons of blogs, support groups, and magazines, in addition to official medical sites. The resources are out there. I had to use these resources to learn more about my own disorder.

I hope that everyone finds these pieces useful. This will not be the only time I talk about these issues, and while these topics were a little bit more general that I originally planned, the Black community needs to take this and run with it. Let’s start talking and let’s start the recovery.

See you in the next post.

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