“I shall live and not die” (Psalm 118:17a)
Celebrating 30: A couple of years ago I was excited about celebrating my 30th birthday. Other than reaching that peak in my life, it was a special celebration because it was the first time in years that I felt my life was worth celebrating. It was the first birthday party that I ever recall having. Within three decades I had earned the title “survivor” and learned the difference in existing and living. This morning as I turned the page on my desk calendar, I read “Tuesday, March 6”. One of two dates that has been a dreaded annual date for me for the past 15 years. Today, would have been my brother’s 30th birthday celebration. A little over two weeks of my high school graduation, I lost my brother to suicide.
“I shall live and not die and proclaim what the Lord has done” (Psalm 118:17).
Teen Suicide Awareness: A woman shared with me today how her son’s friend recently committed suicide and he had only been married for 10 days. She made a statement that I have heard thousands of times, “No one understands what happened because he showed no sign…he appeared to be happy and normal”. For the past seven years, I have been an active mental health advocate, especially advocating on behalf of unknown high rate of suicide among teens. Suicide remains the third leading cause of death among young adults age 15-23. Most parents, school counselors and even friends are not aware of the teens dealing with mental disorders such as depression. It remains a silent killer. In the Black community, mental health remains a major barrier. We have a history of being one of the most uneducated races about mental health. As adults, we have masked our issues for so long until the curse continues generation to generation and our children do not know how to talk about it. Although the church is the first resource Black people seek, unfortuantely, spiritual leaders are not equipped to deal with the issue. Similarly to the young man, my brother appeared happy and normal as well. He was active in his high school sports and was the one that made everyone else laugh. But after I reviewed the pictures we took on the night of my graduation, the last time I saw him, he looked extremely sad in every picture. Sometimes even when the “signs” are not vivid as crying or isolation, it doesn’t mean that it isn’t there. As adults often do, teenagers learn how to mask their problems too. One way to break the silence is eliminate the stigma associated with mental health so that more families and individuals feel comfortable talking about minor or major problems. No one wants to discuss something that is making them feel so much pain and have someone critize them for feeling that way because they have never experienced it or just don’t understand it. We tend to fear what we don’t understand. God did not give us a spirit of fear or bondage but liberty. I believe strongly in the power of prayer, healing and even deliverance, but just as we petition God and seek a medical doctor about physical illnesses, the same concept applies to mental illnesses. We must become educated about our mental health as we do our physical health. Through advocacy, education and gentleness we will be able to Break Mental Health Barriers in the Black Community and eradicate this “silent killer”. Help someone live today and be able to celebrate 30!
(Join the Facebook page, Breaking Mental Health Barriers in the Black Community)
Happy Birthday Marchello!