It isn’t often that black men publicly discuss our emotions. It’s not popular, because we live in a society that from inception has seen us as superhuman or animals. A world that often doesn’t teach us how to unpack our emotions and kicks us in the tail far more than it lifts us up. Recently a report was released by the East Baton Rouge Coroner that dropped an alarming statistic for Baton Rouge. There was a spike in suicide among black men in 2018. Usually there are 2 or 3 black male suicides a year. In 2018 that number increased to 14. I was sent the story and immediately my heart went out to brothers in this community. I get it, in more ways than one.
When I was two months old, my biological mother committed suicide. An incident I was too young to understand, but one that reshaped the entire course of my life. Back in 1985 when my mom committed suicide postpartum depression wasn’t talked about much, and my mom a wife and mother of three at 26 didn’t get the help she most certainly needed. As a result, for a decade my father tried to figure out how to put his life back together he struggled with alcoholism, ended up homeless, and my sisters and I were raised by family members and friends. The impact of suicide doesn’t go away when the person dies and it doesn’t only impact the individual who lost their life.
As if growing up a black male in America isn’t hard enough, I know like many of you first hand how life can hit you. We like to front in this social media age that life is always bank deposits and success. In reality, life has a way of hitting all of us, male and female, and every ethnicity known to mankind with obstacles and struggles. Twice in my life I attempted suicide. The first time I was 18 and a senior in high school. I had just moved back to Louisiana and for a host of different reasons I lost the will to live. I took 4 or 5 bottles of pills and I wanted to die. The second time I was like my mother 26. My marriage had began to crumble from poor choices on my part, and I felt like I was losing everything I had gained. In those moments, I didn’t see the point of living. I felt like opting out would be the best option, and even though I personally had experienced the loss of my mom from suicide and seen its impact — in that moment I couldn’t see a reason to continue.
Admitting that publicly is still not something that feels good. I’ve discussed the issue before and read comments from people who despise the work I do that said, they wish I had succeeded. Knowing that potentially thousands of people will read this and form whatever opinions about me is off putting, but this issues is too important to be silent. I want to encourage black men in my city today to keep pushing and tell you the things I do now that keep me grounded and focused on living, so that I never reach a point of wanting to take my own life again.
I have a therapist. A year ago, I felt life kicking my tail in a real way and needed to vent that frustration. I began seeing someone to help me unpack things. None of us can carry the load of life alone, and though your shoulders are strong black man, you and I need someone to talk to. Someone who can rationally help us evaluate our choices and the choices others make that impact our lives. Some might feel like talking to a therapist means you’re crazy, which isn’t even close to true. Talking to a therapist can help keep you from going crazy. It is my belief if the creator wanted us to deal with everything alone, we would’ve been born on islands in isolation, rather than in families and communities we can lean on. Therapy helps me keep my mental health in check the way my primary care physician helps make sure my physical health in intact.
I surround myself with people who lift me up and check on me and I block out the noise. I have not always had friends who just reached out to make sure I was okay. Today I can tell you people like Dr. Rani Whitfield who is my primary care physician pick up the phone sometimes to just say, “hey G, you good?” Another brother who avails himself in the same way, is Kyle Palmer at Parker’s Pharmacy. I’m usually good, but the fact that these brothers check on me, lets me know someone cares, and that’s important. I could list ten other brothers who in one form or another make sure I’m good. Seriously brothers, you need a healing network of people who can relate to what you’re going through. The pressure of being a provider for many men in this community is massive. We live in a city that is 54% black, and when you look at the disparity in income black men struggle to advance their careers and businesses for many different reasons. It’s difficult, and frustrating to be talented and overlooked. Just trying to figure out how to make ends meet can weigh on your mental and emotional state. Having a network of people who can help you navigate that is critical not only to your success as an individual, but to your mental health.
Lastly, and most importantly for me — I’m determined that I will be the one who breaks the generational curse off my family. I’ve made the decision that I will live, and use this life to do as much good as I can. That is not always easy, because the world never stops coming. Some days I wake up and read the news or text messages, and I just want to go back to sleep and start over again. What I know is, the day is coming even if I’m not ready for what comes with it. You and I have to make a choice to live no matter how hard what we face is.
Years after attempting suicide, I’m still here. I take that as a sign, God has a purpose for my life. I believe there is one for yours also. I’m 33 now and had I succeeded at taking my own life, I would’ve died before The Rouge Collection was birthed, and you would not be reading this today. I can’t tell you that what you face will not be difficult, but I can tell you what my grandmother shared with me years ago, that helps me still today. “Keep going to sleep and getting up in the morning, it does get better.” It seems simple, but somedays its hard to get up in the morning. Do it anyway. The obstacle may not be gone. The hurt may be intense, but time helps us heal what we thought could not be mended. More now than ever, we need strong black men in this community. Being strong is sometimes admitting that we are weak emotionally or mentally at that moment. Don’t quit brothers, we need you.
If you need help or feel you’ve lost your will to live please don’t end your life. Call the suicide prevention lifeline and talk to someone 1-800-273-8255.