Silence Speaks: A Conversation on Mental Health and Suicide Prevention

You can’t become depressed. You’re black.

Pray about it.

It’s just a thing white people made up.

You have nothing to be stressed about.

These are some of the things I use to hear growing up in a black family. It’s a conversation that people often avoid. We make jokes about it and fail to acknowledge red flags until we’ve lost someone we love. It should no longer be an excuse for this topic to be a stigma. We must continue the discussion on black people and their mental health

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The Healing Bison Initiative for Change lead a discussion on mental health and suicide prevention on November 3. The guest speaker was Dr. Ayanna Watkins from the Howard Counseling Center.  Black people tend to internalize the ideas of not believing in mental health and not acknowledging our own pain. Stereotypes that tell black men and women that showing emotion is equal to weakness end up killing us when we need to acknowledge those emotions to heal.

On campus, mental health can be a taboo too. There are students that try to talk with their professors about it with little to no success. During the discussion, students said it’s a training issue with the professors. Others said it’s a disconnection between older generations and younger generations. The cliché phrases we hear are “pray about it” and “be strong.". Certain levels of pain can be normalized and the black community values “physical strength”.

Suicide prevention was another point of discussion.  Some people believe that suicide is selfish and that victims don’t think about how it will affect their loved ones. However, we have to be more compassionate and empathetic of what that person may have been going through, well before they feel like their only option is to take their own life.

We see a person’s accomplishments and best moments, but we never seem them struggling and asking for help. That’s why we must continue the discussion on mental health and suicide prevention. We must also take action because talking can only do so much. We must be willing to reach out to those who are in pain and in need of help.

“Sometimes, being hurt too many times doesn't make you stronger, it destroys who you were, who you wanted to be and makes who you are today.”

-Rafael Prado