Mental Health and Wellness Can Prevent Suicide

Being a person of color presents daily challenges (both macro and micro) due to the exhausting fight against institutionalized racism. The start of Spring has brought a sense if new beginning, yet black people are continuing to fight the struggle against oppression that seems to have no end.

Between Rio de Janeiro city councilwoman and activist Marielle Franco's assassination last week and Stephon Clark (an unarmed black father of two) getting gunned down in his own backyard two days ago - mental health and wellness becomes increasingly important in black and brown communities. 

Melissa Howard, Head of Prevention Outreach at,  reached out to us to write a piece for MelaninASS. Despite the fact that we think this platform along with most others, need more critically analyzed programing specifically targeting people of color ... we appreciate their efforts and the work that their doing for those in need. 


Check out what Melissa has to say about emotional wellness & the staggering statistics facing POC during these challenging times:

Mental health is a difficult thing to measure. Unlike physical health, there aren’t blood tests and measurements you can take to determine if your mind is healthy. We have to rely on more abstract questions to decide when it’s time to seek help from a professional.

When you’re depressed or suffering from a mental issue, you might overlook some of the warning signs that you’re in serious trouble. You might think you’ll get through it or that better times will come your way soon. That might be true, but sometimes you have to take some steps to prevent disaster. In the case of mental health, that disaster could be suicide.


But when should you seek help? Ideally, you should seek help the minute you know you have a problem. Many people think that depression is something you can just snap out of. That you can force yourself to feel better. But that’s a myth. Depression is a serious condition that can happen based on an event, such as a divorce, breakup, the death of a loved one or loss of a job. Or it can be a chronic condition that results from a chemical imbalance in the brain. Depression can lead to substance abuse as well. Either way, it’s not your fault and it’s nothing to be ashamed of. Seek help as soon as possible if you’re suffering from depression or an addiction, or both.


Here are some signs of depression, according to the American Psychiatric Association:

●      Feeling sad or having a depressed mood

●      Loss of interest or pleasure in activities you once enjoyed

●      Changes in appetite — weight loss or gain unrelated to dieting

●      Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much

●      Loss of energy or increased fatigue

●      Increase in purposeless physical activity (e.g., hand-wringing or pacing) or slowed movements and speech (actions observable by others)

●      Feeling worthless or guilty

●      Difficulty thinking, concentrating or making decisions

●      Thoughts of death or suicide


Depressed people don’t necessarily have all these symptoms, and you may have others that aren’t listed here.


Photo by  Pixabay

Photo by Pixabay

When depression becomes fatal

Suicide is a terrible consequence of depression and other mental illnesses. In 2012, 62 percent of people of color (POC) had some sort of depressive episode, but a very small percentage (25) sought treatment, according to The Huffington Post. Furthermore, mental illness is involved in 90 percent of all suicides, and POC commit suicide at a rate of 6.03 as reported by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP). The suicide rate for men is 3.53 times higher than the rate for women. Although suicide deaths affect almost all age groups, those aged 45 to 54 have the highest rates. Some estimate that one in six people will become seriously suicidal in their lifetime. With mental health as the common denominator, what is preventing POC from seeking help? The National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) lists lack of information, misunderstanding regarding mental health, and socioeconomic factors that affect the inability to access adequate mental health care as the primary reasons why so many POC don’t seek treatment and potentially become suicidal.


Remember that suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. Depression and most other mental illnesses can be treated. Whatever is going on in your life will end eventually, though it may not look like it right now. It may take a lot of work and a lot of painful struggle, but it will end, and your life will return to normal.  


If you’re considering suicide, talk to someone immediately. Contact a suicide prevention helpline. If you’re not considering it now but feel you may be at risk, see a doctor as soon as possible. She can direct you to the correct resources to get you the help you need. She may even be able to prescribe you medication to help you.


Remember that there are people who love you and want you in their lives. Whatever is causing you so much pain will get better, and that your life, no matter how bad at the moment, will get better. You deserve to continue living and moving forward through life. Turn to a friend you trust and love, and reach out for help. If we all work together, we can end suicide.