04 21 2015
  7:44 am  
     •     
40 Years of Service
Karyn Washington

I’m tired, my sisterfriend says.  I don’t know how much longer I can hold on.  As I hear her I have a couple of choices.  One is to tell her to get with her pastor and pray; the other is to tell her to get real with her illness.  Running her to her pastor takes her to a familiar place. Pushing her to help takes her out of her comfort zone.  When my beloved brothers and sisters share that they are stymied in the way they live their lives, I don’t mind praying and encouraging spiritual counsel, but I do mind ignoring the medicinal help that could assist my sisterfriend.

So my sister is sighing her pain, and I am wondering what to do.  There are few that will hear a Black woman in a Black community, strumming her pain, questioning her faith.  According to the National Associations of Mental Health more than 4 percent of African Americans have considered suicide.  Most of them are African American women.

Mental health is our nation’s dirty little secret, and if it is whispered in the nation at large, it is a silent scream in the African American community.  We are afraid, ashamed, frightened to own up to it, using our own lingo (s’kerd, shamed) to wrap ourselves around the fear that goes with “coming out” on mental illness.

So we are silent, even when we lose a warrior. Karyn Washington was a 22-year-old Morgan State University sister who committed suicide, last week. This young and brilliant one turned her pain into power when she created a website, “for brown girls” (forbrowngirls.com) that lifted up and affirmed our brown skin girls. Karyn was a colored girl whose mental issues were apparently so severe that she chose to take her own life while affirming those of others.  From all accounts Karyn experienced depression. How many feel it and don’t say it? How many nod and just don’t mean it? How many exhale, inhale and really reach out to a brother or a sister to listen, have a cup of tea, take a walk, or just reach out and touch?  

The poet Paul Laurence Dunbar wrote, “We wear the mask that grins and lies that hides our cheeks and shades our eyes.” Many in our nation, especially African Americans,  wear the mask.  When we peek/speak/tweet from behind the mask we realize, yet if we were real, we would have to acknowledge in the words of Paul Lawrence Dunbar that to make a poet Black and bid her sing is to challenge her and her two realities. In the words of Sister Maya, “I know why the caged bird sings”.

I chose to focus on this because in one scant week I have spoken to African American women who have experienced depression or feel shackled by other mental health issues.   They walk like they hold the world in their hands; sway like they are hearing drums from another continent, yet cry behind closed doors, like they have the weight of the world on their shoulders.   They are sad, ground down, depressed, and we play off their pain, trivialize it, instead of responding to it.  We are losing too much genius when we play off the scourge of metal illness. We decide that it is their problem, not the problem of a nation that would inflict, rather than attempt to fix, mental illness. For all the care the Affordable Care Act has offered, we must ask if it has offered enough to combat mental illness.

Video by S. Renee Mitchell

We in the African American community have paid more and received less to be perceived as “normal” members of society.  Despite injustices in Scottsboro, Groveland and other vile places in our nation, we have been expected to show up, with amazing dignity, ignoring the massacre of our sons or daughters with well-modulated emotion.   Too many of us fear or fail to speak our pain.  Poverty and mental health are correlated, yet the poorest of us see our pain as “par for the course” and we don’t speak about it.   Whether African Americans are wealthy or financially challenged, mental health is elusive for some.  And faith without works is dead, which means fall on those knees if it comforts you, then run to the doctor who may help you with medication and therapy.

Baby girl Karyn Washington inspired this column, and as I thought of her, others kept reminding me of their own pain and the ways it has been ignored.  If you don’t get it, read from Terrie Williams’ Black Pain.  And if you get it/read it, remind folks that this is not a sympathy issue, this is a public policy issue.  So weep sister soldier, brother warrior.  Those who bear the scars of mental illness have often fought longer, harder, and with the chemical imbalance that makes them feel it all so much more intensely. Mental health is not an embarrassment; it is a national health issue.   It is a silent killer that we have yet to acknowledge.

Julianne Malveaux is a Washington, D.C.-based economist and writer.  She is President Emerita of BennettCollege for Women in Greensboro, N.C.

Pacific NW Carpenters Union

Commenting Guidelines

  • Keep it clean: Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually oriented language
  • No personal attacks: We reserve the right to remove offensive comments
  • Be truthful: Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything
  • Be nice: No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person
  • Help us: If you see an abusive post, let us know at info@theskanner.com
  • Keep to topic: We will remove irrelevant posts and spam
  • Share with us: We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts; the history behind an article

Recently Published by The Skanner News

  • Default
  • Title
  • Date
  • Random
  • When should we use military to enforce US goals? NASHUA, N.H. (AP) — Rand Paul lashed out Saturday at military hawks in the Republican Party in a clash over foreign policy dividing the packed GOP presidential field. Paul, a first-term senator from Kentucky who favors a smaller U.S. footprint in the world, said that some of his Republican colleagues would do more harm in international affairs than would leading Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton. "The other Republicans will criticize the president and Hillary Clinton for their foreign policy, but they would just have done the same thing — just 10 times over," Paul said on the closing day of a New Hampshire GOP conference that brought about 20 presidential prospects to the first-in-the-nation primary state. "There's a group of folks in our party who would have troops in six countries right now, maybe more," Paul said. Foreign policy looms large in the presidential race as the U.S. struggles to resolve diplomatic and military conflicts across the globe. The GOP presidential class regularly rails against President Barack Obama's leadership on the world stage, yet some would-be contenders have yet to articulate their own positions, while others offered sharply different visions. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, whose brother, President George W. Bush, authorized the 2003 invasion of Iraq, declined to say whether he would have done anything different then. Yet Jeb Bush acknowledged a shift in his party against new military action abroad. "Our enemies need to fear us, a little bit, just enough for them to deter the actions that create insecurity," Bush said earlier in the conference. He said restoring alliances "that will create less likelihood of America's boots on the ground has to be the priority, the first priority of the next president." The GOP's hawks were well represented at the event, led by Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who has limited foreign policy experience but articulated a muscular vision during his Saturday keynote address. Walker said the threats posed by radical Islamic terrorism won't be handled simply with "a couple bombings." "We're not going to wait till they bring the fight to us," Walker said. "We're going to bring the fight to them and fight on their soil." South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham addressed the question of putting U.S. troops directly in the battle against the Islamic State group militants by saying there is only one way to defeat the militants: "You go over there and you fight them so they don't come here." Texas Sen. Ted Cruz suggested an aggressive approach as well. "The way to defeat ISIS is a simple and clear military objective," he said. "We will destroy them." Businesswoman Carly Fiorina offered a similar outlook. "The world is a more dangerous and more tragic place when America is not leading. And America has not led for quite some time," she said. Under Obama, a U.S.-led coalition of Western and Arab countries is conducting regular airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. also has hundreds of military advisers in Iraq helping Iraqi security forces plan operations against the Islamic State, which occupies large chunks of northern and western Iraq. Paul didn't totally reject the use of military force, noting that he recently introduced a declaration of war against the Islamic State group. But in an interview with The Associated Press, he emphasized the importance of diplomacy. He singled out Russia and China, which have complicated relationships with the U.S., as countries that could contribute to U.S. foreign policy interests. "I think the Russians and the Chinese have great potential to help make the world a better place," he said. "I don't say that naively that they're going to, but they have the potential to." Paul suggested the Russians could help by getting Syrian President Bashar Assad to leave power. "Maybe he goes to Russia," Paul said. Despite tensions with the U.S., Russia and China negotiated alongside Washington in nuclear talks with Iran. Paul has said he is keeping an open mind about the nuclear negotiations. "The people who already are very skeptical, very doubtful, may not like the president for partisan reasons," he said, and "just may want war instead of negotiations."
    Read More
  • Some lawmakers, sensing a tipping point, are backing the parents and teachers who complain about 'high stakes' tests   
    Read More
  • Watch Rachel Maddow interview VA Secretary Robert McDonald  
    Read More
  • Some two thousand people pack halls to hear Trayvon Martin's mom speak   
    Read More
load morehold SHIFT key to load allload all
Carpentry Professionals

PHOTO GALLERY

Calendar

About Us

Breaking News

The Skanner TV

Turn the pages

Hood to Coast
The Skanner Photo Archives