I am coming out.
Mental illness is real.
The fact that I even need to write that statement above is disheartening. Mental illness is not a joke or passing “sadness.” We can’t just get over it. We can’t just fight through it. Some of the strongest people that you know are suffering in silence.
Like millions of other people, I struggled during the COVID-19 pandemic. Crying was my wake-up call. I went from someone who rarely cried to someone who cried daily. I lost my appetite, focus, and motivation. It got to the point that I was fearful of getting on the scale because I didn’t want to see how much weight I had lost. I struggled in silence for months until my mind began to wander to places that would end the pain. It was then that I knew I needed help. I wasn’t prepared to leave my children and husband to pull it together.
That started my journey to getting help. I called my doctor’s office only to get referrals to therapy which led to endless calls, waitlists, and no callbacks. After about two weeks of this, I called back and told the triage nurse that I was at my witts end. If someone didn’t help me, then it would be on them. I had an appointment the next day. I share my story to say two things; The mental health system in the United States is broken, and suicide isn’t a selfish or weak act. Often the strongest amongst us suffer the most and in silence.
One in five people in the United States suffers from mental illness (52.9 million people). Suicide is the second leading cause of death for people between the ages of 10-14.
Mental illness and substance use disorders are involved in 1 out of every 8 emergency department visits by a U.S. adult (estimated 12 million visits)
Mood disorders are the most common cause of hospitalization for all people in the U.S. under age 45 (after excluding hospitalization relating to pregnancy and birth)
Across the U.S. economy, serious mental illness causes $193.2 billion in lost earnings each year
20.8% of people experiencing homelessness in the U.S. have a serious mental health condition
37% of adults incarcerated in the state and federal prison system have a diagnosed mental illness
70% of youth in the juvenile justice system have a diagnosable mental health condition.
8.4% of Active Component service members in the U.S. military experienced a mental health or substance use condition in 2019.
15.3% of U.S. Veterans experienced a mental illness in 2019 (31.3 million people).
Yesterday, the world learned that DJ tWitch took his life by suicide. The reaction on social media was swift; “He seemed so happy.” He was a happy man with a wife and children from all external sources. As a society, we need to make space to support all people. We shouldn’t allow people to suffer in silence.
Depression is not synonymous with being sad. Depression is unique to each individual. There aren’t always signs of the outside world. There aren’t always signs to people that are close to the person. We must remove the stigma and talk openly about mental illness. We must support each other publicly and authentically. This is the real global pandemic.
For this reason, I am coming out. This strong Black woman no longer suffers in silence. I have a mental illness and will fight daily to survive. And for the record, Black men, I love you!
Help is available.
988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline
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