On February 8th, Black Lives Matter activist MarShawn McCarrel wrote his final Facebook message: “My demons won today. I’m sorry.” The 23 year old activist took his own life on the steps of the Ohio Statehouse.
Known for his drive and poetic words it was shocking to his colleagues and supporters that suicide was what McCarrel found to be the only solution to his personal demons. Black Lives Matter activists and others joining in the fight against racial injustice are on the front lines putting themselves in harm’s way and opening up the door to even more hate from those on the other side of the fence. The daily fight as a person of color in America is a big enough battle to stress all of us out. But when you add the stresses of the movement and fighting for the cause, does that give you an extra mountain to get over, burden to carry and river to cross?
Talking about our burdens and our mountains to anyone other than our closest friends and family is out of the question. For some, even confiding in people about these issues is out of the question. So when do we ever get to put the burden down and have peace? When do we get to silence our personal demons before our demons get the best of us? Therapy seems to be one of the answers to those questions but not one that is widely accepted in the Black community. In the Black community there are an array of reasons as to why therapy isn’t for us:
· Jesus will fix it
· Therapy is too expensive
· Therapy is that white people stuff
· No one in my family ever needed therapy so neither do I
· I can deal with it on my own
Unfortunately, those types of responses to therapy have left us in a weird space of needing a savior and not having the strength to reach out to one that’s readily available. Rashida Davison spoke out about how two years of activism had taken a personal toll on her. She had trouble sleeping, bouts of anxiety, and feelings of despair. “This is really getting to us.” Davison told the Washington Post. Some of the most prominent, powerful, and prolific men and women we are seeing on the front lines of the movement are fighting a war on the outside and the inside. Other activist have posted phone numbers for suicide prevention hotlines after seeing the growing number of depressed and stressed out activists.
American Psychological Association released a report that indicated that perceptions of racism are inversely associated with the psychological well being and positively associated with psychological distress. Discrimination and racism are generally associated with poor health status and that association was the strongest in the case of mental health compared to physical health. In other words we feel the stress of racism and the movement in our minds and not our bodies. The study went on to say that Black psychological responses to racism are similar to responses to trauma. This trauma taking the form of depression, anxiety, and insecurity. Black activist are commonly engaged in the discussion of black death and the fight over black lives, all the while experiencing racism personally on a daily basis. One black person dies every 4.5 hours because of suicide in the US. In the case of MarShawn, it’s no longer those we are fighting who are killing us, it’s the fight itself. We need help.
Groups on Facebook like No More Martyrs and Mental Fitness is the New Sexy along with organizations like the Black Mental Health Alliance, are starting the discussion and breaking down the barriers that keep us from seeking help. Whether you are an activist or just a black person in America trying to make it past the daily struggles of carrying your burden, you my beloved are not alone. Join me as I join in the discussion about Black Mental Health and add support to these groups. We are in this battle and discussion together.
Read the full article at Blavity.com.