Today I’ve been whining about breaking the screen on my laptop computer and complaining about a radio show that went horribly, terribly wrong, and I missed some major news that should have been discussed and that I was remiss in reporting. Karyn Washington, founder of www.forbrowngirls.com and the “Dark Skin, Red Lips” project has died at the tender age of 22. And this was not a natural death. This was a suicide.
Washington, who dedicated herself to the uplifting of dark-skinned black girls and women, and worked so that they would have a sense of well-being, was struggling with depression and mental illness, and was unable to extend the love she gave to others to herself.
This is often par for the course with black women, who often shoulder so much burden (one of the only things the community will give us kudos for, the quintessential ‘struggle’) and to admit any weakness of the mind and body is to be considered defective. Vulnerability is not allowed. Tears are discouraged. Victims are incessantly blamed. We are hard on our women, and suffer as a result.
When your community tells you that you’re better off praying than seeking the advice of medical professionals and medication, you feel shame when you feel your mind is breaking. There is no safe place. To admit to any mental frialty is to invite scorn and mockery, accusations of “acting white.”
Because only white people suffer from depression. Only white people commit suicide.
Black women are strong.
Black women are not human.
And this is a LIE.
I have suffered for bouts of depression and anxiety for the majority of my life. When I acted out, my mother told me I was possessed by the devil and once called our minister. I told her how I felt, she told me to pray. When I became an adult and went to college, I FINALLY was given an outlet to speak on my affliction. Medication and counseling changed my life. It’s not fun sleeping for 16 hours a day and crying for no reason, or feeling like your heart is going to beat right out of your chest. Thank God for Zoloft. And I refuse to allow anyone to shame me for allowing myself to be healed.
Ladies, stop allowing others to shame you out of seeking help if you need it. African Americans are the most undiagnosed group of mental illnesses, because we are so ashamed to admit we can not always hold it down. The struggle is literally killing us. Yes; blacks may be the least likely group to commit IMMEDIATE suicide, but look around you–you’ll see black women killing themselves slowly with food, which is a more socially acceptable way to kill yourself. Look at the streets, all the boys so eager to off themselves in front of bullets. We’re committing suicide alright, but we like to take the long way around.
As far as I’m concerned, Karyn Washington is a martyr. Let her be a martyr for change. If you don’t have insurance or are worried about the cost of care, thank Obama. From MentalHealth.gov:
The Affordable Care Act will provide one of the largest expansions of mental health and substance use disorder coverage in a generation, by requiring that health insurance plans on the Health Insurance Marketplaces cover mental health and substance use disorder services. These new protections will build on the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity to expand mental health and substance use disorder benefits and federal parity protections for behavioral health to 62 million Americans.
Because of the law, health plans must now cover preventive services like depression screening for adults and behavioral assessments for children at no cost. And starting in 2014, most plans won’t be able to deny you coverage or charge you more due to pre-existing health conditions, including mental illnesses.
And if you don’t have insurance, sign up for Obamacare. Mental health services are covered.
Let’s honor Karyn’s memory and continue the work that she started, and take it a step farther. Let’s not just tell black girls and women they are beautiful and worthy. Let’s also tell them that it’s okay to fall back, seek help, and heal.