Thursday, February 02, 2012

Thinking about suicide (again).

Suicide is in the news.

First, "Soul Train" creator and host Don Cornelius was found dead in an apparent suicide. Then the Huffington Post reported that actress Keke Palmer is reaching out to teens after the suicide of 17-year-old Ashley Duncan in Houston,Texas.

This is striking for me because about two weeks ago, I considered writing a post that would open like this:

I'm not sure how old I was when I first considered suicide.

Something like that. I played with different phrasings, trying to find the string of words that would roll off the tongue most pleasantly.

Anyway, I'm not sure how old I was, but I think I was in 10th grade. And I don't remember exactly why I was considering it. What I do remember is why I decided against it.

I decided against it because I felt it would be the ultimate in ingratitude and in dishonoring God.

That has held up over time - in all the times that suicide has crossed my mind, it has merely crossed, not stayed - because the refusal to dishonor God that way has not allowed it to stay.

So when it pops into my head, it doesn't scare me. I reject it, and keep going.

I decided against writing that post a couple of weeks ago, because I feared that it would make someone panic, when my only reason for mentioning suicide would be to re-affirm my rejection of it.

Indeed, after that first time, I concluded that contemplating it, and deciding against it, might have made me stronger in some sense than someone who has never considered it at all. I have decided to live, in a way that most people haven't.

And most emphatically, in a way that Don Cornelius and Ashley Duncan didn't.

Writing at, Ronda Racha Penrice says that Don Cornelius' death in particular, should serve as a wake-up call for the Black community regarding mental health issues. I couldn't agree more. But how do we acknowledge that call? How do we wake up?

I think the first step is to spread one simple idea: it's ok to need help. If your car's not working right, you take it to a mechanic. If you suspect that your mind's not working right, you take it to a therapist. And it's ok.

Or if that seems like too much, you at least talk to...someone. Parent. Teacher. Minister. Friend. Bartender. Somebody. Face-to-face. Not to the world on Twitter or Facebook. To a real live person who can look you in the eye and tell you that it's ok to need help, and who just might help you find it.
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