I remember the first time I became aware of my own struggles with mental health. I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep, I isolated myself from my peers and I was extremely irritable and always frustrated with the world and with my life. I was 16 years old when I came to the conclusion that I could no longer handle the life that I was given and I became suicidal. I was consumed and obsessed with the thought of ending my life, and I took the first step when I began to self-mutilate and neglect any health concerns related to my body.

Now, at the age of 25, I take a look back at my fragile 16-year-old self and ask her, “Why didn’t you get help?” …

Dear Black Women:

Yes, you are queens. Yes, you are magical. Yes, you are strong and yes, you have a resilient heart that is capable of enduring pain and surpassing any struggle. But I want you to know that above all else, you are human, and mental health is a serious illness that does not discriminate. Despite popular belief, it is not a “white people problem,” and our young black boys and young black girls are also susceptible to this growing epidemic consisting of physical and mental dysfunction and maladaptive behaviors…

I want you to know that it is OK to struggle; it is OK for you to not have it all together, it is OK for you to feel weak and it is OK for you to admit to the universe that you can’t do life on your own. Black women, your life is deserving of its best chance; please step out of your own way. I don’t want you to be one of the African-Americans who die by suicide every 4.5 hours in the U.S. I want you to understand that suicide is the third leading cause of death for young black males ages 15-24; these are the young black talented men that we are raising.

We can no longer turn a blind eye to the subject of mental illness within our community. Studies show that 63 percent of African-Americans believe that depression is a personal weakness. The top-rated barriers to treatment for African-Americans are denial, embarrassment and shame.
I want you to know that you have nothing to be ashamed of. You are worthy, you are loved and your life is worth fighting for…


If you — or someone you know — need help, please call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. If you are outside of the U.S., please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention for a database of international resources.

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