Julius* was born in the rural south, the last child born to a small and loving family. His mother doted on him. Women, young and old alike swooned when he entered a room. Tall, handsome and charismatic, he had a megawatt smile that he wielded freely. He knew no stranger, always engaging in conversation within minutes of meeting anyone. He was smart without being condescending. He was great friend. An attentive son. A wonderful brother. An uncle, Godfather, friend. And in the pre-dawn hours of a new 2019, Julius became a statistic: a victim of suicide.
When news of his passing began to circulate, the first question out of every person’s mouth was “Who?!! Nah. Not Julius.” He had so much going for him. Everyone loved him. No. It had to be a lie.
Sadly, it wasn’t. They learned later he had been suffering with depression for decades. In the weeks before he died, Julius became increasingly ill. His doctors adjusted his medications and his inner circle surrounded him, ever vigilant, keenly aware of how fragile he had become. But not even their love and support could save him from the darkness that overtook him.
Julius’ passing rattled the small community he grew up in. People who considered themselves close to him were stunned by his death and had no idea of the pain he was in. He hid it remarkably well from everyone, including friends, coworkers and church members. His racquetball friends had no clue. His Saturday lunch buddy couldn’t tell anything was wrong when Julius cancelled their meal the evening before he died. He sounded…normal. He didn’t sound like he would kill himself hours later. Julius’ ability to hide his turmoil behind a smile left everyone shaken. It made everyone wonder.
Who else is in pain?
The suicide deaths of high profile celebrities such as Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade serve as sad examples of how easily mental health issues can be masked. Their success and wealth could not save them from the same fate as Julius.
Julius’ death started a conversation about mental health within a population that historically has trouble with the topic; Black people. ‘How you doin’ became more than a passing greeting. It became a sincere question. “No, bruh, really. How are you doing?” Bonds were deepened as people began to confess battles with their own demons. More than one person admitted they had tried or considered suicide themselves. A community was forced to face the reality of mental illness among them.
According to the CDC, suicide is the eleventh leading cause of death in the US, with death rates highest among older adults ages 65 years and over. Men are four times more likely to die from suicide than are women. However, women are more likely to attempt suicide than are males.
This month at Thrive Sistah, we’re committed to equipping you with tools to manage your mental health and emerge from dark days and trying times victoriously.
We hope you will join in these crucial conversations, share your stories and encourage your Sistah’s.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
*name changed to protect identity