In this past week, the news has highlighted the death of two high profile people–Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain. Their deaths come as a shock to people who have watched them through their rise to the top in the respective sectors of fashion and food. Both deaths have been reported as suicides. While many people have decided that it is worth the time now to talk about the struggle of mental health issues in the wake of their deaths, I am convinced people are still unwilling to face the root of issues in the beginning when signs develop.
As a man who has dealt with depression for many years, I can tell you without any hesitation that discussing mental and emotional health challenges at the end of one’s life is not the time to be reflective. Consider for a moment the people in your life that you dismissed when they told you “I am not ok”. Think about the people that you haven’t spoken to in years. Many people could avoid reaching places of despair with a simple, hello.
You may not believe it, but people with great responsibility just want to be treated as a human being first. It may not register right away, but your perception of what a person should be is not the priority when he or she is fighting for level ground in life. God forbid as a person of color that we declare our struggle. We still have to fight the stigma of depression, bipolar disorder, and other diagnoses are strictly demonic and prayer will fix it.
People are fighting daily to hold on. I believe that God has kept me. I also believe that God led me to counseling. I believe that medication aided me when I needed it. I am grateful to connect with friends when it is important. I am grateful to be present for people in their struggle through simple conversation. It is called wisdom. It is called human decency. It called interaction. It is called no judgment. It called facilitating an environment of “going to be ok”.
I will never forget this one encounter. I preached at a church I formerly pastored. I talked about my struggle with depression and suicide attempts that happened in my past as a teenager. Some people in this predominately African American Baptist congregation gave me the “you don’t talk about that here” look. Those individuals did not realize how many people struggle with the same things I was talking about.
A couple of days later, I was in the office. I received a phone call from a member. She always seemed pleasant. Every time I saw her, I tried to go out of my way to speak to her. However, she seemed withdrawn always. The member called to tell me something I did not expect. “Pastor, I wanted to thank you for your message Sunday. I don’t always talk all the time. I struggle with depression, anxiety, and schizophrenia. I didn’t always feel comfortable at church. But when you preach Sunday and shared your story, it was the first time I felt safe.”
The church ought to be a place of safety and refuge. The people ought to be a resource for commonality, relationship, and fellowship. We ought to be experiencing these elements not only in places of worship, but our everyday lives. Don’t wait until it’s too late. Be the change. Be the vessel of hope. Do not wait to be sparked by the plight of more known individuals. Check on your friends and family. Tell them that you love them and show them the same love. The proactive agent aids in producing the change.
#mentalhealth #katespade #anthonybourdain #hope #change