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Black People, Mental Health & Suicide: Remember To Show Compassion

by Fannie LeFlore, MS, LPC, CADC

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A young black male in the Hip Hop business recently committed suicide (see articles about Chris Lighty) — just as Don Cornelius, Found of Soul Train, did — and despite their fame and/or money. This should remind us that people in all socioeconomic situations can feel lonely in a crowd. Many who are popular often do not know who they can reach out to. Imagine what those who view themselves as just regular people may experience, including feeling isolated and without support when depressed.

People who commit suicide, for the most part, have been depressed for some time before they act on their feelings of despair and give up. Depression is often a primary precursor for many who, due to suffering internally and feeling hopeless and alone, feel if there is no other option available but to take their own life. Anyone can become affected by depression, and it does not reflect being weak — it simply means we are human and may sometimes need support and help to get through certain challenges in life.

There is no perfect life, regardless of how image-makers want to portray celebrities and others in the public eye. Average people should avoid comparing their lives to celebrities. Having fame and fortune does not mean never feeling sad — in fact, despite the many blessings from being financially well-off, money also can be accompanied by additional problems. And, even when people have enough financial or other resources, they still make mistakes at some point, since no one is perfect. Some consequences are hard to take and some mistakes are harder to overcome than others. The result is that people can at times feel depressed about life in general.

With the economy being difficult, many people are struggling in some ways. Many hardworking men and women should not feel overly-ashamed. The economy and other things may be out of their control. Life is an ongoing journey that involves learning, and how we handle resources — whether they are scarce or abundant — presents an ongoing important lesson, since changes in resources are likely to occur over a person’s lifetime.

We can be actively supportive of decent black men and let them know that seeking an ear from caring friends and family and/or professional counseling is ok. We need to help encourage decent black men to hang in there. Their positive presence in our lives makes a far greater difference than the relatively few men who are always harmful, types who kill others routinely, even shoot randomly in a neighborhood and do not care about the ongoing harm to children, families and communities.

Of course, both men and women need to be careful who we choose to share inner-most feelings with because talking too much to those stuck-on-stupid, the extremely selfish/self-centered who lack compassion, can leave anyone feeling worse.

When people are experiencing hard times, we may not be able to help rescue them through a financial contribution — but we can be there for them in other positive ways. The human touch/kindness can help someone who is depressed to remember the good within himself or herself. We can help remind them of their worth and value. They may be hardest on themselves and need to be reminded that others care. They may need to hear what we appreciate abou them.

Sometimes holding on when one wants to give up can happen when another person steps in and makes a difference through simple and genuine caring. Time can help give people mental room to consider all their options, rather than feel trapped in situations. Maybe they will be able to cut back on some expenses, or beging engaging in growing vegetables for their household, etc. They might find solutions they’d never considered before and later view their struggles as a positive turning point in their lives, and find they are glad to still be living. Sometimes things happen for reasons far beyond what we can understand at the time.

Empathy, compassion and practical caring can make a difference. People cannot read others’ minds — so let us be willing to verbally show kindness and offer hands-on support to another when they make us aware. Those in need of support and those being supportive people can be uplifted by spiritual blessings and Pay-it-Forward. We ourselves never know when we will benefit form the kindness of others.  Feel free to pass this information on to help someone know they are not alone. 


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