As a young Black man who has survived multiple suicide attempts, I’m proud to share my story of how my family, therapy and faith have guided my mental health journey. From my conversations in the Houston community and beyond, I know that so many people who look like me are experiencing some of the same struggles with depression and racism. I’m here to remind them that they’re the only ones who walk in their shoes and that they are enough despite the discrimination they experience because of the color of their skin or their mental illnesses.
This affirmation isn’t something I always knew or was confident in, but I came to this realization through therapy. I can directly connect the onset of my depression to racism and bullying I experienced when I was in high school. When I was attending a school with a diverse mix of students, the black kids told me I wasn’t black enough. Then, when I transferred to a predominantly white school, the students didn’t like me because I was a smart black kid who focused on schoolwork. I remember clearly being bullied on the school bus by a white girl who was really mean to me.
I didn’t understand why people couldn’t appreciate me for who I was or just leave me alone. That’s when my mental illness developed and from that day, it got worse and worse. The thing bullies and racists don’t care about is that their words and actions are hurtful and can affect a person’s mental and emotional well-being.
I wanted to kill myself, and I tried several times. Thankfully my mom noticed I was starving myself, getting too skinny and having severe nose bleeds. She’s the one who made sure I got the mental health treatment I needed and found the psychiatrists and therapists who have helped me along the way.
My mom and sister have been by my side throughout my mental health journey. I’m truly blessed to have them as such strong advocates and supporters. Without them and their encouragement to be consistent in therapy, I know I wouldn’t be here today.
Mental health treatment and therapy have helped me develop skills that I now use in real time to help me get through life. Some of the skills I’ve learned include:
- Coping skills that help me deal with situations
- Showing people appreciation when they do things for me or others around me
- Talking to family, friends and peers about my thoughts and feelings
- Working together with therapists to identify solutions for various challenges
My faith and belief in God have also played a significant role in both my depression and my healing. When I was suffering from debilitating depression from bullying and racism, I often saw demonic spirits attempting to suck the soul out of my body. These demons represented me hurting myself and reminding me that it’s a sin to do so. I believe God was using these demons as a way of getting my attention and reminding me to pray for healing and restoration.
So often in the Black community we think we need to choose between our faith and mental health treatment. I believe God created doctors and therapists to help people. Yes, continue to pray, but I always say you need ALL of the right ingredients for true healing: God, medicine and therapy. It’s just like needing the right ingredients for a recipe to come together.
I’m here for a reason because God has a plan for me. That plan is to help others like me and share my story. Sometimes it’s difficult for me to talk about everything I’ve gone through, but I know I have to share my story with others so I can help others through their healing journey.
I appreciate Menninger for letting me share this story during Black History Month to help bring awareness to Black men about recognizing when racism is taking hold of their mental health and the importance of seeking mental health treatment. Mental illnesses can be spurred by environmental or situational factors, such as racism, bullying, poverty, loneliness, etc., or they can be genetic. No matter the origin, mental health professionals can help people understand their mental illnesses and help them achieve mental wellness.
My message to everyone is to be compassionate to the people you encounter. Even with our differences, everyone is a whole person and deserves to be treated kindly. It’s ironic that people with mental illnesses are often portrayed as crazy, criminals or otherwise evil people. To me, it’s the opposite. People who treat us like this are evil as are people who discriminate against people because of their race.
Let’s strive to be good people and do good. If you’re currently struggling with a mental illness, do good for yourself by seeking treatment or therapy. Reach out to someone who can relate to you. Open conversations, whether in person or through social media, can be the spark you need to begin your healing journey.
Note: Many thanks to former outpatient Ramases Wright for sharing his story during Black History Month.