When you first watched The Green Mile, you might have pondered upon the thought of possessing John Coffey’s special and unique gift. My only feelings were pity and empathy. I thought to myself, as a 10-year-old, “how does this man do what he does every day without wanting to top himself?”
In the age of heightened consciousness and ‘being woke,’ for extreme want of a better phrase, I suffer from what I can only describe as the John Coffey Effect. I coined the term last year when I realised that in the wake of being aware of the deaths of black men, women and children at the hands of police, feeling the pain and anguish of black people globally was having an effect on my own mental health.
In 2011, I attempted suicide for the second time in my life. In 2013, I experienced clarity and a better understanding of why I was going to go through with it. The first time I had attempted suicide, I was 14 with barely any understanding of how one went about killing one’s self apart from the methods seen on TV and in film. I hadn’t realised the propensity of what I had done and had forgotten about the ordeal until ten years later.
At the time, the prospect of counselling was beyond my reach for a number of reasons. Firstly, I wasn’t in a position where I felt comfortable letting people know. Second, a session costs money and to make considerable progress would cost even more. As a student, I couldn’t have afforded it. Also, how would a white therapist be able to relate to me? Much of my life’s experiences have occurred because of my race so unless my therapist was also black, there would already be a disconnect.
Over the past couple of years I’ve come to learn that my suicide attempts are at the tail end of a sequence of occurrences as a black man. Always questioning my identity led me to seeking one out in places someone with my frame of mind shouldn’t.