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Ending The Stigma....For Macho

Beautiful People Velkommen

"You can't see people's mental health. Be kind; always...." -Unknown

This is for you Macho (Julian)

Let's go.......

On 10/20/19, I got the worst news of my life: my 28-year-old nephew Julian had ended his life after years of struggling with depression. Julian was a bright light in the lives of those who knew and loved him. He was charismatic, thoughtful, and ridiculously funny. He was so smart, always open to learning new things sharing, and be proud of it. He loved to read, he was masterful at storytelling, using his life experiences as the foundation for his narratives. He was an awesome son to my broheme George and sister-in-love Jessie, the first nephew to his aunt Jizelle and uncle Jorge; a caring grandson to both momma Ninnette and momma Lazilia, a doting husband to his beautiful wife Monique and a loving father to his sons Jace and Camryn. His future held such promise. Sadly, depression overcame him. Despite our close relationship, he’d never told me about his illness. He didn’t want me, nor anyone else, to think any less of him; he concealed his suffering. I was gutted by the news that my nephew was gone. I still am.

Damn stigma.

The suicide deaths of high profile celebrities like Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain are bringing much-needed attention to mental illness, a public health crisis in the U.S., and the devastating consequences of mental health stigma. Check out these staggering statistics:

  • Millennials suffer from anxiety at a much higher rate than previous generations.

  • In 2017, nearly 61% of college students said they “felt overwhelming anxiety” and 40% felt so depressed that it was difficult to function.

  • Suicide is the second leading cause of death on college campuses. One in twelve college students makes a suicide plan.

  • Suicide rates in the U.S. have risen nearly 30% since 1999. More Americans die from suicides than car accidents or opioids.

  • Despite effective treatment options, 40% of people with serious mental disorders don’t seek help.

  • Racism and socio-economic disparities put Black and Latin Americans at a higher risk factor for developing a mental disorder yet they use mental health services at about half the rate of Whites Americans and Asian Americans at about one-third the rate.

Given how many people are struggling, I just can’t accept the shame around mental health anymore. For my nephew Julian, and all of the other beautiful souls we’ve lost to this wretched illness.

Our cultural story, as a people who endure, is why I never imagined that our people would become more at risk for suicide than Caucasians. For some, there is the assumption that suicide is a selfish act; my nephew was one of the most giving human beings that ever lived and with many who commit suicide, felt that his action was the only way to alleviate a burden of having not to be worried about by others. In our community of black and brown people, very few people feel that they have someone reliable and trustworthy to call. As a result, the interplay of stigma, limited knowledge, unexpressed pain and lack of access conspire to keep many families from overcoming unnecessary cycles of hurt,

Imagine one of your more defeated days, say it's a day when nothing is going your way, no one is helping you, 10 people are trying to pull you in different directions and you are sick of it all. Your children won't listen, there are financial or health challenges impacting your state of function, you don't remember the last time that you had time to yourself, and there doesn't seem to be any peace on the horizon. You may have a quiet thought that things would be easier if you went to sleep and not wake up. Even with that thought in mind, you may not fathom the thought of life becoming so difficult that you'd take your own life; but people who die by suicide do not want to die, they want their emotional pain to end.

Recognizing the dire state of black and brown mental health may require that you reject what you have come to understand about what it means to be emotionally healthy. Just because you were able to "make it through the day" does not mean all is well. You can make it through, handle your business yet feel so sad and empty almost all the time, which then leads us to suffer in silence. This dynamic of secrecy and the layers of pain are pervasive in our community. There is a culture of silence, limiting options for support when it is needed; poor communication and unresolved hurt could be addressed if there weren't so many layers of pain. It is an ugly cycle, however, it is one that you can begin to chip away at.

It is time for a shift, it is time to have more honest conversations between family members, friends, educators, medical practitioners, and community leaders. We need to come to the realization that we are a nation in pain and because we don't have the tools of support and coping skills, we lose incredible souls such as my nephew to the beast known as depression and dire finality known as suicide. If we are to take the action of commitment in order to address mental illness in our community, we must be honest about the problem at hand, take away it's the power of stereotype, recognize that there is no face of mental illness, and slay the stigma.

It was the day before Julian's wedding day that he stopped by his mother's house to hang with us for a while. I told him about my blog idea. "Auntie, that's what's up! you know I am going to be a guest writer on it right?" Jokingly I said, "Hell yes, of course."

He was, through me, today.

"Who is absent in body, is alive in spirit"

Happy Birthday, Macho, we will slay the stigma.

Struggling with Anxiety: Create your own profile at Anxiety Social Net ( to connect with people dealing with everything from social anxiety to agoraphobia. Prefer to meet in person? Find a state-by-state list of support groups at the Anxiety and Depression Association of America's website (

Struggling with Depression or Bipolar Disorder: Locate an in-person or online group at the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance site (

Struggling with Postpartum Depression: The Postpartum Progress site ( lists support groups in nearly every state as well as in Canada and maintains an online forum.

Struggling with Schizophrenia: The Schizophrenia and Related Disorders Alliance of America facilitates groups nationwide; find one on its site ( You can also dial into its phone groups (855-640-8271) at 7 P.M. ET Sunday, Thursday, and Friday with the passcode 88286491#.

Plagued by Obsessive-Compulsive Thoughts and Behaviours: More than 200 groups are listed with the International OCD Foundation (, which aids those affected by the disorder and their families.

The Adult Child of an Alcoholic: The Adult Children of Alcoholics World Service Organization maintains numerous support groups and hosts call-in and online sessions (

Grieving Someone Who Died by Suicide: Join one of the many groups for survivors listed on the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention website (

A Survivor of Rape, Sexual Assault, or Incest: After Silence ( is a message board and chat room for victims of sexual violence. Additionally, Adult Survivors of Child Abuse ( organizes support groups around the U.S. and abroad, and offers resources for those who want to start their own.

Battling Anorexia, Bulimia, Binge Eating, or Food Addiction: Eating Disorder Hope catalogs online support groups (; it also offers help and advice for those close to someone struggling to overcome an eating disorder.

Battling Sex Addiction: Sex Addicts Anonymous (, similar to Alcoholics Anonymous, offers a widespread network of in-person, online, and phone meetings.

Self-Harming: DailyStrength hosts a web forum where people dealing with self-injury can find encouragement, understanding, and a new way to cope (

A Veteran Who Is Injured Or Has PTSD: The VA Combat Call Center—877-WAR-VETS (877-927-8387)—is staffed 24/7 by fellow combat veterans or spouses of disabled veterans who can offer immediate help; the Vet Center program site ( can direct visitors to both group and private counseling

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