I didn’t know Karyn Washington (for brown girls) personally, but I can’t get her death, allegedly a suicide, off of my mind. Age 22? Much too young. But. I also know that when you’re suffering, 22 can be much too many years. In an article I read about her death, one woman commented on mental health and the stigman in the black community, and its something that really hit home for me.
When I was in high school, I was assigned an essay. The topic: Describe yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally. In restrospect, this was obviously some kind of probe and I should have probably done what everyone else probably did and lied my ass off and say how amazeee my life is, but I was honest— too honest. I remember getting the paper back with no grade and note that said simply “see me after class.” my essay had been forwarded to the guidance department and I was told I’d have to go see them from time to time.
When I got home from school that afternoon I learned that they had contacted my mother, told her all about my essay, and that they suggested she get me help that they just couldn’t provide. I think I expected that she would jump at the opportunity to help me feel better, to help me get better, but instead all she said was
"Why did you do this?"
And that was that.
To my mother, mental illness, depression, etc … was something to be ashamed of and embarrassed about. something to keep to yourself. something to just deal with on your own.
I understand private struggle, I really do, but often times it ends the way Karyn Washington’s did and it doesn’t have to.
It really doesn’t have to.