As a community, we often talk about a lot of things–from police brutality to racism in Hollywood. Social media has even given us a bigger platform to connect and voice our concerns that are otherwise too often ignored. And it’s given us a chance to discuss issues that we may find uncomfortable to bring up in other situations, or even with our own families and friends. But with all the conversations, think pieces and social justice movements we’ve managed to stir among the community, there is still one issue that is often buried: depression and mental illness.

“Black people are strong.” “Black girls are magic.” We hear these statements all the time, and while they’re certainly true we have to understand that we may not feel like a million bucks every single day. In fact, some of us go through long bouts of sadness and other periods of frustration, and don’t know what to do with these feelings. This is partly because our community doesn’t talk about these types of emotions. We’re supposed to just “push through it.” There is an idea that with just a little bit of patience “this too shall pass.” But what if it doesn’t?

I recently learned of a family friend who committed suicide. He was 18 years old. I’m not a doctor or medical professional, so I am not going to pretend to understand what someone like this was going through. But in situations like this, it’s so easy to ask yourself “what could I have done to help?” I still don’t know the answer to that, but I can say that it always helps to simply listen. Not just ask questions like “How are you” or “What’s wrong?” But listen when the person talks, engage with them, find out what they like, what they don’t like. Chances are, they’re looking for an ear, or maybe even a shoulder to cry on. But if no one else is acknowledging this issue–not family, not friends, and not on Black Twitter–it further alienates the person going through it. It makes them feel more alone.

The truth is, they’re not alone. Maybe you know someone who is depressed, or maybe you are suffering in silence. Talk to someone. Listen. But don’t ignore it, and let’s not act like this is “not a black problem.” We’re all human, and it is up to us support one another, lean on each other, and recognize that depression and mental illness is real. And we can do something about it.

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About Candice

New York City import, magazine journalist-turned-film blogger, "Cinema In Noir" Co-Host, member of the Online Film Critics Society & the Large Association of Movie Bloggers, Snark Enthusiast, and a firm believer that Black is not a monolith. Visit Candice's film blog, Reel Talk Online, at www.reeltalkonline.org.
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  • President of Off-Topic Black D

    This basically described all men O.O

  • JackalopeJones

    Thank you SO MUCH for stepping up to talk about this. Earlier last year a prominent voice in a geek community I belong to made a few pretty terrible comments about suicide, and ever since then I’ve made it my mission to speak openly about my mental illness (depression, anxiety disorder, ADHD) and encourage other people to seek help or share their experiences. Growing up, we really didn’t have an understanding of mental health issues in my community. People were just “crazy”, and sitting on a couch to talk about your problems was a white man’s game. It absolutely is not.

    If there is anything I can do to help spread the word, contribute to this conversation or help folks who are struggling through some mental health issues, *please* let me know. It means an awful lot to me that people in our community know they’re not alone and there are things that will help.

    • Candice Frederick

      thank you so much for your comment. It definitely means a lot that you are helping alleviate the stigma. We need to break the silence.

  • Bre

    Thank you for this post. I was recently diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, as well as ADHD. I had a hard time telling people about it, and others didn’t believe me. I’d gotten really good at acting ‘normal’ or as if nothing was wrong. But after a while, you get tired of people not understanding you or trying to explain yourself and you just want it to be known. Depression has been a familiar thing in my life as well, and in the Black Community we like to sweep things under the rug.

    We really need to stop this, and with so much going on in the world the last thing we need is to be silent on mental illness. It’s good to see people speaking up about it.

  • robertoV05

    I remember when I stepped onto the campus of an HBCU back in the late 80s and I went through bouts of depression, struggling to keep myself above water! The campus of any HBCU can be very hectic for the depression prone, and people can be especially mean and cruel, and some of the feedback that you get is straight up BS. Like, when I would talk about things like this article is suggesting, all I would get is “you’re weak” or “you’re talking like a loser!” and such. Then if you vent about things, all you get is the “well, other people overcame such and such, you can too!” and people clowning what you are going through. It was rough, but I stayed sane. Furthermore, if you show emotion among black males you are considered by them to be a “bitch”. You have to be loud, obnoxious, and super confident to be “down” LOL. It was rough, but I got through it, and nothing about it was easy.

    • Philip

      Thank you for your potent post Roberto.

    • Black Guy

      I’m suffering alone All the shit I’ve been through is eating me up inside. I was molested as a child something I still haven’t shared until this day. Mainly because I’m a guy and would be seen as a bitch and treated like such by family and friends. My father was a drug addict and my mother and father were abusive towards me (psychological and at times physically). I grew up in a Christan household so whenever you speak about any problems about life God is always brought into it. Your pain and truth is never acknowledged. You are told to go pray or your not living holy enough. Over time I’m come to hate religion why did God allow me to be abused, molested then grow up to deal with more problems. I’ve dealt with cops and have a record for stupid shit like weed possession. My license is suspended for over 6 years now. I was married now divorced. Like what is good in my life?? I just recently had a shot at a job that would’ve change my life but i failed the drug test because of weed. I use weed to self medicate from all the depressing shit in my life. Child Support, living at my moms house and she don’t want me here. Can’t see my kids . Just recently found out I’m HIV positive but can’t tell nobody nothing. Why does God hate me if there is one ?? All I did was be born into the situation he chose for me. I resent my family for having the means to help but standing by idle watching me suffer and struggle.