Rep. Jesse Jackson Was Wrong to Hide Mental Illness

 

xlargeThe absence of Representative Jesse Jackson Jr., from congress since May is causing quite a stir among his constituents, democrats, and republicans. It has now been revealed that the Illinois Congressmen is hospitalized for a mood disorder. If true, Jesse Jackson Jr. missed a great opportunity to help black males’ education on mental illness, specifically depression. In fact, it is safe to say, his actions have helped maintain the impenetrable stigma of mental illness. By the same token, depression is slowly decimated Black males and our time is running out to raise awareness.

According to the Office of the Surgeon General, depression is likely a key factor in a 233 percent increase in suicide in African-Americans males aged 10-14 from 1980 to 1995. Suicide was also the third leading cause of death for African-Americans in 2003. A serious weakness with most young African-American males is their lack of health insurance unlike Representative’s Jackson. As a result, uninsured young Black males overrun emergency rooms as their lives become unhinged and unmanageable. Like an unmanned freight train these young men wreak havoc in our communities from murder to total anarchy and our communities are under siege daily. Depression may not be the sole factor but I theorize it’s a contributing factor.

Ø 54% of people believe depression is a personal weakness.

Ø 41% of depressed women are too embarrassed to seek help.

Ø 80% of depressed people are not currently having any treatment.

Ø 92% of depressed African-American males do not seek treatment.

Ø 15% of depressed people will commit suicide.

Ø Depression will be the second largest killer after heart disease by 2020 — and studies show depression is a contributory factor to fatal coronary disease.

Unfortunately, one of the limitations of the Black communities is to maintain the public secrets (i.e., AIDS, under education, fatherless homes). In other words, we do not openly talk about what everyone else can plainly see. Like Ostrich, we sink our heads in the proverbial sands of denial and stigmatization. We whisper our pray that it will go away. Sadly, our Christmas stocking provides only a lump of coal for our passive actions. Yet, we pray, but not for an awareness campaign on mental illness but for a better deceptive instrument.

In the interim, this brings me back to Representative Jackson; above all, he has unwillingly contributed to the stigma of mental illness. For the most part, young Black men need information on mental illness, unlimited stockpiles of literature on the disease. Black males need education on depression symptoms and treatment options. The Black community needs to stop hiding what’s in plain sight. Sadly, Jesse Jackson Jr., wasted an opportunity to provide knowledge and wisdom to brothers. On the contrary, his maneuver help continue to fuel that mental illness is to be kept from the public’s view. It is safe to say he has an aborted education on mental illness.

Many African American males are suffering from mental illness in silence. They hide in our communities in open public staggering from one episode to the next. Daily they walk by us dazed and confused beautiful souls screaming for external intervention. Yet our piousness display the frozen no vacancy sign to our brothers. At the same time, their intoxication brought on by depression has them locked inside a vault filled with only hopelessness.

In essence, we must bring these brothers the combination to their incarcerated consciousness. The silence on Black men and depression must be shattered once and for all. In brief, we must hold everyone feet to the fire to speak out about depression in the Black community…we must educate them. This means Jesse Jackson Jr., also, he needs an education on mental illness, along with treatment. My hopes are for a speedy recovery for him and his family.

The Invisible Dragon

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Set my Brothers Free: Young Black Men & Depression

By The Invisible Dragon

Young Black males, as suicide victims, were unheard of growing up in 1970’s.  However, presently, according to the American Association of Suicidology, suicide rates for African-American males ages (15-24) increased 83% in the early 80’s and 90’s.  More importantly, most suicide victims suffered from depression at their end.  Suicide has become a statistical reality for many young brothers.   The sad fact that young males are killing themselves is startling, but the communities’ silence is worse, even tragic. As a result, Black communities face stinging charges of being callous, insensitive, and more importantly, mis-educated. It is my belief; the silent epidemic on Black men and depression must be shattered.

Black men rarely speak about their mistrust of organized healthcare.  One reason for the silence is the mistrust they possess toward the health care profession.  The Tuskegee Experiment is just one example of gross malpractice levied against Black males throughout American history.  I, personally, refused to use White male doctors in the past and frankly all male physicians.  Often, they gave me a sense that my health issues were not as serious and that intestinal fortitude was in order.  In the hood, reputation and the cool pose is everything Black males risk isolation and marginalization if they have a mental illness label.  Despite, whys and wherefores, we must face ourselves and shed the current fear to face depression.  Young Black males suffer from mental illness; we better admit this and speak up.

Unfortunately and fortunately, Black males do not attend church in large numbers.  One reality they face is Black Churches dis-empower them by suggesting only the blood of Christ heals.  Young Black males are inundated constantly with this message from female relatives, girlfriends, and wives.  Usually those loaded theme suggestions fall on deaf ears. Nevertheless, I sympathize with anyone who attempts to sound the bell about males and mental illness. However, in contrast, depression is not a headache that’s erased through pray and aspirin.  It is important Black Christians not marginalize depression anymore; it’s real, get over it.  In addition, we must refuse to endorse the religious-based mythology, “Only the blood of Jesus heals”.  We need the Black church to become a responsible partner in healing our young men.    

If one would solve a problem, the study of the problem is a prerequisite.  In urban communities, often, Black males lead a life of isolation and sequestration.  My own view, education on mental illness is a valid step to our miscarriage concerning mental illnesses.  More directly, to break the silence we must seek education as the only solution.  Although, a controversial issue has been whether depression is real, this by the way is crazy.  The collective illiteracy about affective disorders is the result of such careless thinking.  The mis-education of mental health is important because half-truths may disable the men and communities, rendering them impotent in life endeavors.  Thus only, data driven information will pardon communities and free young brothers.

It is no secret, in urban communities; countless Black males inflicted with mental illness, live in virtual darkness. Sad and disheartened, they routinely live emotionally disengaged existences.   And, we do know, if depression deepens without medical intervention hopelessness may become a reality.  Haeffel, Abramson, Brazy, & Shah (2007) define hopelessness as being convinced the future holds bad results and all efforts are futile.  Our refusal to seriously engage men about their mental health ultimately hurts Black families, children, and communities.  As well, to continue endorsing cultural mental illness mythologies are an even more egregious assault.  We have a responsibility, and duty, to educate ourselves and communities on mental illness:

Shall we not set ourselves free?

The Death of A Crack Addict

By Robert A. Williams

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Jesse held his timid posture inside the project’s hallway, absorbing the rumbling sounds from the apartment.  The loud stench of urine did not drown out the violent voices as he listened silently.  His slender frame, as a ship on bumpy waters, rocked steadily as he decoded the languages.  These evidently hateful sounds came from the apartment as always after multiple day crack binges.  Nevertheless, under the influence of crack, hopelessness, and suicidal thoughts, Jesse with unbridled animosity ignited after hearing the scorning noises.  Pissed, he flushed his clenched fist down his mouth and screamed inaudibly.  While his character received rebuke from inside, he heard a voice say, “Jesse ain’t shit and never will be shit” pierced through the apartment’s peephole, and, as quickly as his rage had imploded; it halted.   The voice’s owner had never been among his naysayers but for this very first time he heard it clearly.  After recognizing the voice owner, his addicted frame collapsed upon the cement, as his emptiness filled him.  For the next two hours, inside the hallway, he furiously rubbed his convicted face, as he whispered again and again:

“I ain’t shit and never will be shit; I ain’t shit and never will be shit.” I ain’t shit and never will be shit.”

Later, in his deepened shallow voice, Jesse asked himself.  “What the fuck have I done?” He wondered had the addiction cost him his family’s hopes.  He snapped back! “I can’t stop, I’ve tried and not one person knows what I’ve been through.  How can they judge me?  What the fuck do they know; they have not walked in my shoes.”  Jesse invalid arguments from the past however were baseless again, but now because of that voice, he wondered was it true.  He mouth mumbled again, “I’ve never been shit” thus his final decree fell noiselessly onto the cement.  Jesse settled himself atop his size 12 feet; tucked his shirt neatly inside his dirty jeans and headed toward the building’s roof.  His mangled body for hours lay  unnoticed before the sunlight allowed the project spectators to recognized it.  The disfigured mesh of body and bones did not faze them; they’ve seen suicide by roof jumping before. “Cats can’t take it, and they jump the fuck off, it’s called ‘project sky rocket.’  The news reporter nervously listened to the hoodie wearing teen’s account, as yellow police tape restrained both; Jesse was a statistic now.

The funeral was uneventful, as most, concerning project residents. The family had to take donations, it’s a norm, no big deal.  A few friends stood with his siblings wondering why Jesse became a ‘project sky rocket’.  Hell, his sister let him stay with her, but they still wondered.  Sure she got on him about his addiction, “Jesse they going to put me out if they catch drugs in here, don’t bring that shit in here,”  But you know what, after each binge, she opened the door.  Jesse often listened outside her door as she would railed preparing for work, “His good for nothing Black ass”.  Nevertheless, she loved his ‘Black skinny ass’, like most siblings in those situations do.  Yea, she let him come back each time and this is why his suicide hurt her most.  Because, she promised to care for her oldest brother and she failed.  As foul-smelling and cracked out, she took him in, blitzed off some new drug shit, she took him in, fucked up on liquor; she took him in.  The morning of Jesse’ suicide however was different, the voice were different.  The voice convinced him he failed at life and disappointed everyone.  He heard that voice and it made him tired and apathetic.  No more fight in him, he was tired, so he jumped.

After several months, project’s natives produced a theory as they always do.  That early morning, a few residents saw Jesse outside his sister’s door before 4am as she undressed him on the other side.  Jesse and his sister kept their business in the street, like all residents of these prisons.  Nevertheless, most residents, like his sister, wondered aloud; why did he jump?  Well, as theory has it, that morning as Jesse crept up the project’s hallway, he was fine. But, as he gathered himself to enter his sister’s apartment, that one voice came from inside and into his head; thus, he freaked out.   Frightened and confused, he bugged out, as they say.  As such, he was whispering as he walked to the roof a few hours later.  His fellow addicts however warned him: Your mother has been dead ten years.

On a Personal Note…

038I lost an opportunity to help my children at an important time in their development. As you recall or maybe not, my mother had a dreadful childhood and subsequent life of only 46 years. A young mother at 13 she lacked normal life skills and demonstrated a fierce sense of survival. In essence, we were poor but in areas more vital than socioeconomic status and wealth.

I had a childhood marred with dysfunctional behaviors and maladaptive developmental stages. Often violence or the threat of viciousness was a communication tool for my era of adolescence. I would like to blame my mother and father, but it would not help. However, their lives were marred in spilt-second decisions of survival, I praise them however for their effort to get my siblings and I along as best possible. Nevertheless, my maladaptive habits soaked my psyche and rendered me abnormal.  As a result, I ran away in my childhood to the form of violence, threat of violence or solitude.

Unfortunately I found myself high in this painful capital throughout my life. A reason? I had lost my guidance (e.g., father) when I was 15, much too early I would say. Thus, I was left to fend for myself personally and socially as a young adult.  I did not fare well. Decisions were hasty and unmonitored by a trusted caregiver, I was often doomed with regrets for unsound choices. Sadly, my children were encapsulated in this dreadful era also fueled by depression, substance abuse, and outrageous risk-taking. It had a tremendous effect on them.

On a personal note, I find my children not using my old technique of communication, (I’m happy) but they lack adaptive behaviors in other stages of development. Worse, I am locked out after becoming a better person to help them. Three of them are now adults and their adult stages do not permit my tutelage; I’m isolated in a form of family relation poverty.

Moreover this prison I’m incarcerated in has forced me to witness their maladaptive development at times. It is a penalty of untold measures and pain.  Sadly, I thought I could break the chain of behavioral abnormalities with my new consciousness but seemly evolution has discarded me. I missed the chance in their childhood it seems.  You cannot go home as they say.    I could blame myself but it would not help…

 

The Invisible Dragon

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“Stick With It” The Formula to Achievement

001The formula to inner success is the ability to “Stick With It”. In 1980 as a freshman in college (Eastern Illinois University) the environment of intercollegiate athletes was overwhelming. I was lost, confused, and befuddled on the humongous campus. In addition, Charleston, Illinois was night to-day to Chicago; its personality resembled Dixieland, Mississippi. I was a non-scholarship student-athlete (a walk-on) in Hell.   I wanted to quit the first day. (August 13, 1980)

Playing football never came hard until arriving at Eastern Illinois University. One week removed from intercepting the game saving pass in the Chicago Public vs. Catholic League All-Star game, I was relegated from city hero to cleaning the latrine. In fact, the treatment was consistently antagonistic and aggressive; as walk-ons, we received everything last.  This went on for what seemed like forever.

Our jerseys were t-shirts, our shoes were black, (other players’ shoes were white), and the helmets resembled props from a 1940 movie set. Again, I begged and pleaded for my mother to save me with her approval to quit. Once more she never uttered a word to confirm the request. However, she said something that night that would change everything.

In the prison camp disguised as a college football team “live hitting” was about to begin. I warned my mother about the upcoming event. On this day, live tackling drills would fill the air; walk-ons like myself would be instructed to run with the football…and BAM, the varsity defensive backs would take your head off.  This day was scary for all underclassmen.

However, as much as I cried (I cried a lot) to my “Ghetto Mum” her uneducated tongue the night before prepared my becoming a Two-Time First Team Kodak All-American, Two-Time AP 1st and 2nd Team American, and 1st UPI First-Team All-American and a small stint as a Steeler.

THE VETERANS ARE HERE…

The Invisible Dragon

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