Tag Archives: #blackhealth

What We Need to Understand About Those Who Die by Suicide


She was very young when it finally claimed her life. It had gone undiagnosed and untreated for many years. Self-medication made it better some days. Some days, it made it worse. Finally, her family took her to a doctor for help, but it was too late. She was dead within the year.


It is very much the same for all of us, regardless of the illness. You play out the same scenarios. You walk the tightrope of hope, trying to maintain balance in the midst of the inescapable truth: You are powerless. Your insignificance in the mean face of death is overwhelming.


You hold their hand and fight your tears. You stay up late, sitting in the kitchen when you should be in bed. You jump at the phone. You mull over the details with friends. You question the doctor. Are they doing everything they can? Are they doing it right? Could someone else be doing more for them? You count your blessings. You count each day. Then, you count each minute. Before you know it, you’re holding your breath for each second.


When the seconds stop, the funeral is unremarkable. The pain so evenly distributed over every inch of your body that you can hardly feel a thing. The food there tastes like sand. If you have the energy to tune in to what anyone is saying, then it is unfathomably inconsequential. You can’t believe you spoke that way, some unimaginable amount of time ago. You are sure you will never speak that way again.


The sort of condolences bestowed on us, the grieving loved ones, are many and they are truly empathetic. Even after all this time, they are warm and heartfelt. It is this warmth that drives the lump into my throat, the inevitability that a perfectly well-meaning person will inquire about how it happened. The lump will bob and choke, while I explain to them that she killed herself.


I watch as the shift takes place: They furrow their brow and click their tongue, the same reaction from everyone. What had just a moment before been perceived as the tragedy of an innocent death becomes the report of an insidious crime. Suddenly the blame shifts, as if every death is a crime scene and the only one of us unaccountable is God.


In order to help those suffering from mental illnesses such as depression, we need to begin acknowledge that falling victim to a mental illness is as irreproachable as falling victim to any physical illness. Imagine marching into battle knowing in the event of your death, instead of being remembered for your bravery, you would be condemned in your failure to prevail. We need to understand these victims are not committing acts of violence against themselves on a whim. We need to recognize they go to battle every day, and each day that they are still standing is a victory.


We need to accept their realities are their own, and not shove our own realities down their throats. Those of us who choose to enrich our lives with the power of positive thinking, we need to understand it is chemically impossible for others to do the same. Would you ask a friend battling another illness to try harder? Would you suggest maybe they go get a hobby, get out more and enjoy the sunshine? Would you suggest these things might cure them? Would you ever make them feel they were somehow responsible for the ultimate outcome of their illness?


Suicidal thoughts are as real and as harmful as the cancerous cells that infiltrate our bodies and claim our lives. As is the case with cancer, there is a chance the victims of mental illness will respond well to treatment and learn to live again. On the other hand, like cancer, it can fight them until they lose all fighting strength. Whatever the illness, the bottom line is this: it may take our loved ones from us. They will often go violently. They will leave us with what feels like intent.


Don’t do your loved ones the injustice of believing this lie. Their illness has already robbed them of a life, but don’t let it taint their memory in death. We don’t want to apologize for them anymore. Some of us won’t because we feel they have nothing to apologize for. Some of us can’t because we can’t forgive them ourselves.


Please, stop asking us to apologize for them. Don’t ask us to remember them for their ultimate defeat. Allow us to remember them for each day we spent with them, each memory a lasting victory.


If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.


If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. You can reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.


Victoria Telfer
I write about Suicide


When to Give In and Let Someone Commit Suicide?

Is there a time when you should give in and let someone commit suicide? When you’re suffering, should you ever just commit suicide?

Source: When to Give In and Let Someone Commit Suicide?

5 Things to Do When You’re Worried About a Friend’s Mental Health



I often run student workshops on a range of issues related to mental health and emotional wellbeing. Regardless of the precise topic, the most common question students ask me is: “What should I do if I’m worried a friend has a mental health issue?”

Perhaps it’s something you’re wondering about, or you’d like to be able to share ideas with your students, friends or your own child. I’ve shared my ideas below, but I’d love to hear yours, too.

1. Listen.

The most important thing you can do for your friend is to make time for them and listen to them. They need to feel listened to, so get rid of all distractions. Giving them the space and time to talk is a really important first step — in the beginning, but also right through (and beyond) the recovery journey.

2. Don’t judge.

More than almost anything, young people with mental health and emotional well-being issues such as depression, eating disorders and self-harm tell me that they fear the judgement of others. They worry people will overreact, thinking they’re crazy or assuming they want to kill themselves. Or sometimes, they worry people will be dismissive and think they’re just attention-seeking. A good friend listens without judgement and sees their friend as a friend — not a unhelpful label like “anorexic or “self-harmer.”

3. Ask how you can help.

When someone shares their struggles and concerns with you, the most helpful thing you can ask is how you can help. There’s no need to dissect the ins and outs of why your friend feels this way — that is the work of a therapist. But as their friend, you can talk to them about what practical measures you can put in place to support them through each day. Think about difficulties and barriers which are making life harder for them. For example, if they’re struggling with anxiety, maybe arriving at school when its really busy makes them feel panicky and out of control. To relieve this, maybe you could walk in with them each day to offer moral support. Exactly how you can help will vary from person to person, so the best thing to do is to have a discussion with your friend to bounce some ideas about. You should also try to revisit the topic every now and then.

4. Seek support — for your friend and yourself.

Depending on the nature of your friend’s concerns, it’s likely you’ll need to encourage them to seek further support. Telling a trusted adult at home or school will enable you to access further support – for both of you. Your friend might be reluctant to share their concerns with anyone else, but if you’re worried it’s important that you don’t go it alone. Also, you may end up developing well-being issues yourself if you take on your friend’s concerns without any additional help. You can help your friend to feel reassured and more in control of the situation by discussing:

WHAT information needs to be passed on – you only need to share enough to access support, not everything they’ve told you.
WHO needs to know – think carefully about who you trust to respond appropriately and support you both.
HOW you’re going to tell them – does your friend want to do it themselevs, do they want you to do it for them, should you to it together or should you write a letter or email?
Of course, we should always try to seek our friend’s consent before alerting someone to their issues. However, there are some circumstances in which you should tell a trusted adult right away to keep your friend safe, and to access support as quickly as possible. These circumstances include:

Self-harm including alcohol or drug misuse
Suicidal feelings
Difficulties concerning food including bingeing, starving, vomiting or laxative abuse
Abuse at home (physical, sexual or emotional)
Abuse from a boyfriend or girlfriend (physical, sexual or emotional)
Bullying of any type
5. Stick by them.

Finally, stick by your friend through thick and thin. It can be hard being friends with someone who’s facing these kinds of difficulties; you may find your friend pushes you away, stops coming out with you, starts acting differently or ignores you completely. But rest assured, your support will mean a huge amount to them (even if they don’t show it) and will help them through their recovery. Even just the occasional text message can mean a huge amount to someone who’s struggling to get through each day.

Good luck – your friend is lucky to have you.


Trade The Lies of Mental Illness for Real Love from Family


Stop looking into the lying mirror of mental illness for your self-worth. Instead, look to those who love you to help define your true worth. Read this.

Source: Trade The Lies of Mental Illness for Real Love from Family

Mental Health and African Americans: Breaking the Tradition of Silence

New York Amsterdam News

Chirlane McCray | First Lady of New York City | 7/30/2015

A short time ago, I was at an event, talking to some very smart people about what we can do to address our mental health crisis. The conversation proceeded smoothly, right up until the moment an African American woman suggested her own theory as to why so many of our young people struggle with mental health conditions. “Maybe,” she said, “the next generation isn’t tough enough. Maybe they’ve had it too easy.”

I wish I could say that I was shocked—but I wasn’t. For generations we have held on to a tradition of toughing it out. We have been reluctant to admit that, like people in every other community in this world, we know the pain of mental illness.

Our reluctance is understandable. The survival of our people has required us to never give anyone an excuse to call us weak. And so we bury our anguish deep within ourselves; we keep our business behind closed doors. We wait it out.

Despite our best intentions, this pattern of silent suffering has sentenced far too many African Americans to lifetimes of solitary torment. I saw this firsthand with my father. Robert McCray was a veteran of World War II. Along with my mother, he created a beautiful and stable home for my siblings and me. But he was never able to enjoy his hard-earned success as much as he should have.

My father suffered from depression, but he wouldn’t have called it that. In fact, he never said a word about the chronic sadness he experienced. But I know it was there. I know his life would have been better if he had talked about it and was able to get some help.

Sadly, my father’s story may be all too familiar to many of you. Today, African Americans are 20 percent more likely than their white counterparts to report experiencing serious psychological distress.

This is not a surprise, because we are also more likely to be exposed to risk factors like poverty, discrimination and instability. The trauma of racism is real, and it can have a deep and destructive effect on our minds.

But despite the many risk factors we face, African Americans are 40 percent less likely to have received mental health treatment or counseling in the past year. It all adds up to a disturbing reality: Millions of African Americans suffer from a mental health condition in isolation, which means they are suffering far more than necessary. Because the good news is that mental health issues are treatable. The challenge before us now is to come together as a community and achieve two connected goals:

We must build an effective mental health system.
We must start telling each other that to seek help for a mental health condition is not an act of weakness—it is an act of strength.

That’s how we, as a people, should be thinking about mental health. We must put aside our old notions and create a world where getting treatment for anxiety is no more difficult than getting treatment for allergies. Our daughters and our sons—and our fathers and our mothers—are counting on us.

Chirlane McCray is the First Lady of New York City. Her Urban Agenda column is sponsored by the Community Service Society of New York (CSS), the leading voice on behalf of low-income New Yorkers for more than 170 years. The views expressed in this column are solely those of the writer. The Urban Agenda is available on CSS’s website: http://www.cssny.org.