Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional~Yusuf Neville’s last tweet
Another one… that was my thought one early morning, as I read a story about a young black man that committed suicide.
In February 2014, I was scrolling my Twitter feed, I came across a link to a story about Yusuf Neville. While I didn’t recognize his name, I did recognize the celebrity names that were mourning his death. So curiosity leads me to continue reading, to find out how he died. Tears filled my eyes as I read “…the North Carolina native committed suicide on Wednesday (January 29, 2014) by jumping from a hotel parking deck….”. No, I didn’t know this young man, but the tears formed because of the sadness and hopelessness this young man must have experienced. As I continued to read, the tears fell as I read this statement: “From the outside looking in, Yusuf appeared to have it all together.” Some version of that statement often seems to be a part of “our” suicide stories. When I hear, “they appeared to be happy” or “he/she had everything going for them”, from friends and family who lost someone to suicide, my mind immediately thinks of the efforts people go through to appear “OK”. Pretending to be OK leads to exhaling when you are alone because you can drop the smile, or let the tears fall. I know the relief that comes with “taking off the mask”, it is indescribable.
I can say that because I have my own battles with depression. While this is not the time to share my entire story, it is way past time for the Black community to have conversations about our Mental Health. I often wonder where or how we can begin to discuss, educate and shift our thoughts as a community. Who has the greatest impact our lives? I believe it’s one of three people: 1. Our parents or a family member, 2. A teacher or principal, 3. A pastor or church member. If there were some sort of dialog about Mental Health from one or all of these sources, our view on Mental Illness could shift. The same way our community may discuss staying physically and spiritually healthy, let talk about staying mentally healthy. I would challenge anyone reading this to ask a friend or family member (parent, child, grandparent/child, or cousin) to have a discussion about suicide. That discussion can start by asking their thoughts on suicide, or asking if they have ever considered it or know someone who has attempted it.
If someone says that they have thought about it, it is NOT the time to call them crazy, selfish, or tell them they will go to Hell for ending their own life. Keep your judgmental thoughts to yourself, and try and find out WHY. You never know what someone is going through, or what obstacles they have had to overcome. Voice your empathy, your love, and your happiness that they are a part of your life; you may become their life saver. Voicing your judgment will only add to the list of reasons they want to end their life. Suggest that they talk to someone and let them know it is “OK” to do so! Offer to help them find someone, and check back with them to see if they made any calls. The most difficult phone call I have ever made was the day I made my first therapist appointment. I have no doubt that the phone call saved my life. Sadly I probably wouldn’t have done so without support from a friend. Thank you to my life saver.
I agree 100% with Yusuf’s last tweet, suffering is optional. However, I hope we begin choosing help, choosing hope and choosing life. My thoughts and prayers are with those who knew and loved Yusuf Neville. This post is also dedicated to Karyn Washington (founder of the blog ForBrownGirlsOnly), Simone Battle (The X Factor finalist & GRL member) and Titi Branch (co-founder of Miss Jessie’s) whose deaths, in 2014, due to suicide were a shock to us all.