What We Won’t Talk About-Mental Illness

DISCLAIMER:  I am not a mental health specialist or social worker or anything of the like.  I’m just here to state some facts and share my opinion.  If you are a mental health specialist, feel free to comment and share your expertise.

Last Monday, Denver Broncos wide receiver Kenny McKinley was found dead in his home from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.  He was 23.  The focus then went to Kenny’s mental health.  After his second knee surgery, he was heard saying that he “should just kill himself.  No one thought he was serious.” 

Sadly, in the black community, no one ever REALLY talks about mental health issues, such as depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, etc.  Our way of dealing with a relative or friend who’s dealing with some heavy stuff is, “Oh, you’re alright. Just pray about it”  or “She’s always been crazy; she’s never going to change.”  As a Christian, I am very aware of what God can do, but we can’t let some things go by the wayside.  Just as we need medicine for the common cold or the flu, people also need help dealing with mental illness.  We need to encourage each other to seek professional help.  It never hurts to speak with a healthcare professional and if he or she sees fit, to take the necessary steps to take care of any thing from which we may be suffering.  We may not be able to “cure” what we have, but we can at least take the recommended medicine to deal with our illness.   If these illnesses go untreated, that is when we become a threat to harm others or even ourselves. 

If you ever have a loved one whom you think is suffering from a mental illness or just went through something traumatic, be there for them to make sure they are dealing with things appropriately.  If you believe their behavior has changed, talk to them about it and encourage them to seek help.  If a loved one says something akin to, “I would be better off dead” or “I should just end it all”, don’t ignore them or laugh it off.  Continue to be there for them and encourage them to seek professional help.  We should never ignore those when we feel like they are dealing with mental health issues.  When we turn our backs on each other is when unnecessary tragedies occur.  Until next time, I’m just a Southern girl…in the city.