Last month I was saddened to see that Jas Waters took her own life. I didn’t know her name until she died, but I’ve been a fan of This Is Us since the show began. For me, it is one of the few places I can see a Black woman rock her natural hair, be loved deeply by a Black man, and raise her children with pride. I googled her then. She was only thirty-nine. On Friday, I learned that Tamar Braxton threatened to kill herself more than once before being found unresponsive in a hotel room. That word ‘unresponsive’ gives me chills. The same word used for both Whitney and Bobbi Kristina. Tamar is only forty-three. Thankfully, she survived and is getting professional care. Because we live In a capitalist nation in a love affair with money, we are often confused when the rich or well-off are suicidal. For most of us, suicide is beyond a last resort. Why aren’t wealthy people guaranteed happiness? Shouldn’t they have everything? And, if they don’t, can’t they buy it? Medical care, mental health experts, personal chefs, the best homes, schools and conveniences. If money is the panacea we’ve been taught, why aren’t all the rich people happy?
I understand that some celebrities end up bankrupt, but even financially strapped stars seem to have a platform for reemergence most of us could only dream of. I imagine they have a network of influential friends and access to resources. So, what makes them just as vulnerable to depression as the rest of us regular folks? Is it possible they are even more at risk?
The Mayo Clinic defines depression as “a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest.” It can interfere with day-to-day activities and even cause physical pain.¹ According to Mental Health America, approximately 17% of the Black population in the U.S. reported having a mental health issue in the past year. While suicidal thoughts and attempts are lower for African-Americans than for the general population they are continuing to rise.²
I got a long-overdue massage today. My shoulder has been doing all kinds of things lately, and I was chatting with my massage therapist about how I’ve learned that emotions can be stored in the body, so it makes sense that depression can cause physical pain. It’s always interesting to me when what I’ve learned about holistic health is confirmed by the traditional medical community.
If depression is so common, what can we do to decrease our risk? I believe the keys are self-awareness, authenticity, self-love and connection. As I said in my self-help memoir, Thinking Outside the Chrysalis: A Black Woman’s Guide to Spreading Her Wings, “Trying to cultivate self-love without self-awareness is like slicing bread before it’s baked.” My book or any other rich and resourceful self-help book is a good place to sow the seeds of positive mental health. Here are a few tips you can use today:
1. Set aside time for yourself. Even if you’re a mother of four, you need a few minutes in the day before the kids wake up or after they go to sleep for alone time. Whether you choose to watch a funny movie or engage in meditation or yoga, alone time and personal space are important for mental health.
2. Know your boundaries. “No.” is a full sentence. Period. Full stop. Adults have a lot of responsibilities. One of the many pleasures of adulthood is a sense of autonomy. You do not have to explain why you don’t want to go to a party, why you don’t want to date someone, or why you don’t want to volunteer for a project. If you want to be extra sweet, say “No, thank you.”
3. Stay connected. Anyone who’s studied or experienced domestic violence or depression knows there is often a sense of disconnection. You may feel that your family doesn’t support you. Or, in the case of domestic violence, you may have a partner actively trying to disconnect you from your support system. Humans are social creatures. We need support. In the wake of COVID, in-person connection is more difficult, and for some computers can be challenging. There is no excuse for not making a phone call.
We are all aware that physical health is important. I would like to see a world where there is as much awareness around mental, emotional and spiritual health as there is around rock-hard abs. Spoiler alert: the abs don’t actually bring joy.
I wish you Freedom, Alignment and Effortless Abundance!
P.S. The photo is a picture I took during my run this morning. Noticing the beauty around you is another great way to improve your mental health. I noticed this tree at a gas station near my home. f you want to learn more about depression and mental health, check out my sources:
If you want to learn more about my self-help memoir, click here: https://honeybutterflyz.com/books