award-winning educator, mental health advocate, social entrepreneur, inspirational speaker, author/writer, program executive, and radio host
© 2015: Beyond SPRH, LLC / Email: info (at) slyoung.com / All rights reserved
This month (July) is “Minority Mental Health Awareness Month”, which is dedicated to raising awareness about mental health challenges --- especially in minority communities. Therefore, as a person of color, I feel compelled to share my journey to help saves lives, as I’ve battled depression for years and was almost another suicide statistic.
Since disclosing my mental health crisis about me being moments from taking my life in March 2014, I’ve had numerous conversations with family and friends about the reasons that someone like me – who by all outward appearances seems to be happy and positive – could or would take my life. These types of evaluative considerations are the reasons that too many individuals miss the warning signs that someone is having a mental health emergency that requires medical attention.
Depression isn’t something I knew about as an adolescent, considered, or thought would ever happen to me; although, once it emerged, I clearly understood its effects --- even if I didn’t know its formal name. My limited knowledge about depression – until it happened to me – highlights the importance and significance of teaching mental health education during a youth’s developmental years.
At the time of my near-suicide, I didn’t plan it --- even though I was under considerable stress due to a multitude of life’s circumstances. The amazing reality about my experiences that potentially fateful day is the sudden dissent into feelings of disillusionment, desperation, defeat, and despair.
Shortly after opening my eyes, I immediately knew that something didn’t feel normal. I wasn’t able to focus, didn’t have a desire to get out of bed, and a heavy fog encompassed my room. Then, moment-by-moment, my desire and commitment to take my life solidified. In the final stage of my planning, I was very and uncontrollably emotional because I didn’t want to take my life, but I had assessed, realized, and projected the lack of my value on many different levels (e.g., personally, professionally, spiritually, etc.).
Notwithstanding my commitment to take my life that day, there was only one thing left that I cared about and needed to ensure was taken care of to be free to take the final action, which was my mother. This is the only reason that I made a call to a relative, which took everything in my being to do given my mental frailty. It took several aborted attempts to complete the call to my next oldest brother to ensure that if anything happened to me that our mother would be okay, since I’m her primary caregiver.
My planned final call didn’t go as expected because I became even more emotional during our conversation, as I could no longer contain my emotions. Immediately, my brother asked if I was alright, but I didn’t want to tell him anything, talk anymore, and without any warning terminated our call. This abrupt end to our conversation made my brother realize that something was seriously wrong. He kept calling back in a frantic attempt to reach me. After numerous calls and messages, I finally and reluctantly returned his call. This was the beginning of things starting to turnaround, along with me beginning to fight for my life, faith, and desire to live.
Once I decided to return my brother’s calls, he slowly but surely redirected my thoughts from that of worthlessness toward a focus on that moment only. My brother stressed and convinced me that my mental health emergency was a moment that I needed to get past. He also encouraged me to contact our sister to discuss my feelings and the situation that led to me wanting to take my life, which I did with lots of reservations. Both of these conversations are the only reasons that my life was saved that day.
The hardest thing that I did over the past year is to boldly document my story, along with my path toward recovery. By finally releasing the feelings, emotions, and situations that led to my desire to want to take my life ... I started to begin a process of healing. As an educator, even though I never wanted to share my very personal story, I understand the extreme importance of sharing difficult life’s lessons to help and inspire others --- especially for a taboo topic that many don’t understand, aren’t comfortable discussing, or associate and direct negative stigmas toward anyone who experiences any mental health challenges.
Depression is a medical condition, which effects the body. Anyone effected should seek treatment as it would be done for any other bodily ailments. No one should feel inferior due to identifying a bona fide medical condition. Moreover, it’s far past time to stop classifying depression as something that happens to the weak, the crazy, or any other judgmental comments. Mental health challenges aren’t the issue; the real issues are the unnecessary judgments that impact anyone’s willingness to ask for or get help. Mental health is “bodily health”! If someone has any health issues that effects their well-being, then help should be sought without any thoughts about others’ considerations related to their strength of mind, body, or character. Stop judging; start helping; save lives!
The outcome wasn’t the same for a mother – Mary Hanson – who contacted me early this year after reading one of my articles “Letter to Myself the Day Before My Near-Suicide: Written a Year Later” about my battle with depression.
Mrs. Hanson shared with me a story about a phone call she had with her son – Brian Hanson – that was in some ways similar to the one I had with my brother. During their phone call, Brian told her that something didn’t feel right; however, he couldn’t describe or identify the words to detail his feelings.
Early the next morning, Mrs. Hanson was awakened by a knock on her door that she’ll never forget. She was told by police officers that her son – who not too many hours earlier told her that he wasn’t feeling normal – took his life. This mother would then bury her son approximately a week later on his birthday instead of celebrating it.
This fateful story and mine are compelling reasons that if someone expresses concerns that something isn’t or doesn’t feel right with them, please stop and pay attention --- as this might be the last opportunity to save their life. After reading this article, beyond reflecting, sharing, and commenting, please make a commitment to yourself and others that if anyone communicates something similar to you that ... #Iwillstopandlisten.
July is dedicated to “minority mental health awareness”; however, discussions about mental health should be a yearlong conversation regardless of race.
I sincerely hope that by sharing my extremely personal story that it will help, change, and save lives. There shouldn’t be any shame directed toward anyone who experiences a mental health challenge; although, there is something wrong with any society that directs unnecessary judgments about someone’s mental, physical, or emotional health that prevents anyone from seeking and getting treatment that could save their life.
Anyone who needs assistance should contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org or
A collection of Mr. Young's articles and interviews about depression are available at: www.slyoung.com/depression.html
Additional information about Mr. Young’s journey to overcome his depression and near-suicide can be obtained in his book “Choosing to Take a Stand: Changed me, my life, and my destiny”.