By Amanda Best
Speak Up: The Stakes Are Too High
The suicide rate of black youth has been growing higher. ThinkProgress.org reported that the most recent census data found that black youth are killing themselves far more frequently than previous generations and suicide has become the third leading cause of death among black people between the ages of 15 and 24.
Several voices in the black community argued that African-Americans need to accept that mental illness affects them and that the community needs to normalize conversations on mental health.
Sometimes, all it takes is one voice to save a life, like 24-year-old Vitalis C. Osugi., creator of the Vital Healing Project in Boston. Osugi completed his degree in behavioral neuroscience at Northeastern University in 2014 and continued his education at the Psychiatry Department of the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH). He soon lost his cousin to suicide. This sparked the idea and creation of the Vital Healing Project, a nonprofit free monthly program in Roxbury that allows participants to learn about mental illness destigmatization in the black community. People in Roxbury and surrounding communities now have a safe space to interact and discuss with seasoned health care professionals about mental health issues.
Joseph Feaster is an attorney, but he spends most of his time as a mental health advocate in Boston. He lost his 27-year-old son to suicide in 2010.
When he is not in the office, he advocates for the awareness and treatment of mental illness among African-Americans at his local church and works with the National Alliance of Mental Illness Boston. Check out his story: http://www.wbur.org/commonhealth/2015/07/29/father-fights-suicide-stigma
“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” – Audre Lorde
Mental health advocates say it’s very important to incorporate time out of the day to check in with yourself and step back from all of the stressors of the day. Here are some easy ways they suggest to practice self-care and incorporate mental health awareness into your daily regimen:
Let your story be heard! If you are a person of color and have attention deficit disorder, attention deficit/ hyperactivity disorder, anxiety, depression or bipolar disorder and want to stand up to the stigma, please email firstname.lastname@example.org any stories you would like to share about how you don’t let these labels or what people say define you. This project and your stories aim to bring hope to other black and brown kids letting them know they’re not alone. #standuptothestigma #therapyisdope #unashamed