It was around 5:30 in the evening on a regular workday when I received the phone call from Monique:
Monique: “Hey girl, they’ve recommended an evaluation for Journee so we’re in the car on our way to the hospital. She wanted to speak with her aunt Steph. You’re on speaker, she can hear you”.
Me: “Hello Journee, how are you feeling?”
Journee: “Hi Aunt Steph., I don’t know. I feel hopeless, I don’t know what to do.”
This call particularly hits home as it’s coming from a 16-year-old girl just WEEKS after the shocking suicide of former Miss USA Cheslie Corrinne Kryst. Quiet as its kept, many of us in the black community could not believe that Cheslie succumbed to suicide. In her final message, Kryst stated: “I cry almost every day now like I’m in mourning. I’ve wished for death for years”. And recently we learned of another young lady gone to soon, Arlana Miller a student at Southern University in Baton Rouge. She stated: “I have fought this urge since my early teenage years”. Both women though of themselves as not being enough and longing for REST. Many still believe that suicide is something that, “only white people do”. Beloved, I beg of you to retire that train of thought. It’s happening in front of us, on the side of us and even all around us. Still, we behave like we are somehow immune to suicidal acts. We are not.
Upon having this conversation with a respected 25-year member of Houston’s Harris County Sheriff’s Department, whom I will affectionately call Officer Gil, he stated that he would say that train of thought may have been true 25 years ago. As an officer who has worked many high-profile cases, he explained that suicide in the Black community has sharply increased over the years, even more so in the past 5 years. As we have collected degrees, gained middle class jobs and now, prized six figure salaries, we have also earned new travails. Many are the invisible assailants of our time, and they answer to a legion of names such as: depression, hopelessness, confusion, despair, heartbreak, anguish, grief, deep sorrow, and just down right misery. Each has a hand in creating the illusion to some that suicide is the only viable solution to gain some sense of peace.
Family, we’re in a crisis and we don’t even know it! We’re not having conversations about what’s REALLY going on with crazy cousins and irrational spouses. We frequent family reunions filled with absurd fights that have been going on for years between "Pookie and Ray Ray". Yet, we maintain our commitment to not telling the truth about mental illness in our families. In some cases, if we are honest, death certificates are not reflecting that our loved ones died at their own hand.
When speaking with my trusted long-time friend, Carlos, about his dad’s death by suicide, he shared: “Steph, I’m not sure what my aunt (his dad’s sister) even put on his death certificate, but I seriously doubt that it was suicide”. And THAT my friend IS the problem. It continues to be a silent alarm that many of our brothers and sisters are desperately hoping that someone will finally hear. Many are the silent screams of suicide on social media. From the classroom to the boardroom, we live daily under the influence of our invasive and demeaning society where there is too much information and so little truth. Carlos ended his discussion with a grim observation: “I’ve researched it Steph, the numbers are just not being reported accurately, and in many cases, not at all. As a guy who has made my living analyzing stats, this thing I know . . . if it’s not measured, it didn’t happen”. (Mic Drop Moment - What!)
As a people, we’re lying to ourselves, straight up. We long to be counted in society and included in resources and financial assistance as given to other cultures, but how are we supposed to do that when WE don’t count nor take accountability ourselves?!? I get it, this subject is shameful, and shame is keeping us in bondage and from the help we truly need. Let’s crush shame with truth and the first two steps are talking about it openly AND accounting for it more truthfully.
We are NOT battling against flesh and blood but against the invisible principalities that attack our minds. Capture the mind; the body will follow. At some point in life, we’ve ALL had to muster the courage needed to resist the voices that only come to destroy us. Those voices inside that point out our flaws and tell us that we’re not good enough. In the present generation, this voice is now personified and cloned thousands of times over on social media through the opinions of other tortured souls. Their screams, rants and raves grow louder and louder with daily likes, dislikes, and shares. My hope is for those who have taken the time to read today’s words, will be enlightened, educated and strengthened to not only speak up, but to also take loving action toward pressing, necessary change.
If you suffer from depression of any kind, PLEASE speak up today. Do not to take irreversible action when you’re at your lowest.
Know that YOU are loved, know that YOU matter.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-TALK) anywhere in the USA. (NOTE: The BBFG has many resources to help, please reach out on FB, the app. OR inbox me to be connected to a licensed therapist).
Stephanie Lyons is a Mental Health Advocate at the BBFG Community. She is also the original Co-Host of "Voices Of the BBFG" for the Black Business Focus Group.