In Response to Marshawn McCarrel
On Monday evening, 23-year-old Black Lives Matter Activist Marshawn McCarrel shot himself on the steps of the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus.
Marshawn was a well-known leader in the community through his work as a mentor and his community project Pursuing Our Dreams; a project that he received an NAACP image award for just last Friday. Many would look at his life and wonder how a young man with so much potential and promise could do something so heartbreaking. Others may wonder how we all missed the signs of trouble regarding Marshawn’s emotional state.
Marshawn’s untimely death has presented a great opportunity to address the lack of understanding when it comes to depression, suicide and their warning signs. As a survivor of depression and multiple suicide attempts, I know all too well what the torment looks like when fighting depression daily. I also remember how easy it was for me to hide behind a mask, my titles and anything else to keep my battle from being exposed to the world around me. Here are a few signs you should pay specific attention to.
One subtle but dangerous sign of depression is hopelessness. Sometimes, people will show very little hope through conversation, music and what they watch on television. People who feel hopeless may talk about weakness in response to the burdens of life, and will communicate feelings of not having much to look forward to or will predict a short future.
Personality changes and dramatic mood swings are also common for someone who might be on the brink of suicide. You might notice a person switching between being outgoing to detached from everyone around them. Sometimes suicidal people may lose interest in daily activities. They might neglect their appearance & responsibilities, and display drastic changes in their sleeping and eating habits.
Major warning signs for suicide include threats of killing or harming oneself. A big one that’s missed is seeking out objects/weapons that are used in suicide attempts. Understand that no matter what, you should take all suicidal behavior and talk seriously because it is a cry for help. When you notice these signs, seek help immediately.
Even with knowledge of what to look for, we sometimes tend to overlook those struggling with mental illness. There is a lack of compassion from people for those who struggle with depression & suicide. They might make comments like, “You’re too young to deal with that” or “What do you have to be depressed about?” or “Just pray about it baby, God will fix it.”
As I look at McCarrel, a young, 23-year-old Black man who took his own life, I’m reminded of my own battle with depression at that age. I was told many of the above things, and they did not make me feel better. It is very important that we have the proper mindset & motives when interacting with people who struggle with mental illnesses. Your conversation, along with the love that you show, has the power to shape a better outcome.
So many times I’ve witnessed individuals who say they don’t want to help those who struggle because they shouldn’t be so “weak.” This sentiment is very prevalent in the Black community. There’s also the stigma that depression and suicide is a struggle exclusive to whites. But depression & suicide knows no color. The disease simply comes to steal, kill and destroy, no matter who you are or where you’re from.
We need to become mindful of the shame that we release from our mouths and the barriers that we have built in our minds regarding mental illness. I believe that people can say “no” to suicide and find the healing they need, but your willingness to want to help is equally as important. In order for them to get there, we as “the village” have to live in love. When we create a lifestyle out of love for ourselves and the people around us, we can drive depression and suicide out.
I challenge each of you reading this to take some time to evaluate yourself and your understanding of depression and suicide. Afterwards, consider the people that you are close to and even those you come in contact with daily. Make efforts to become more intentional about being aware of their actions. No, don’t be a creeper, but yes pay more attention. If you do notice things that could be alarming, lend a hand in a way that is inviting and guiding by love.
Remember that a suicidal person may not ask for help, but that doesn’t mean that help isn’t wanted.We might not be able to reach every single person, but we can definitely slow this epidemic and get to a place of healing. Gifts come without repentance, but opportunities don’t. I would hate for you to miss out on the opportunity to use your gift to help someone say no to suicide.
Richard Taylor is on a mission to be one of the influential voices for his generation and the generations to come. His high-energy motivational series, “Getting Over The Hump” and debut book Unashamed have quickly positioned him as one of the fastest growing speakers in the market. Richard’s story of overcoming morbid obesity, depression, suicide, failing in college and domestic abuse, have struck a change within high school and collegiate students through out the country. Richard inspires the masses to tap into their inner potential to create the change they want to see. For more on Richard, visit www.unashamednation.com.