Especially in the black community, is something we rarely discuss, but over the past year, I have learned that it is actually important and should not be disregarded.
Recently, there have been reports of innocent people's lives taken away by seemingly random shootings targeted at people while doing everyday activities, such as going to school, going to the mall, going to watch a movie. Unfortunately, the news bombards us with stories about the gunmen giving them false and undeserved fame. I think the news should focus on the lives go those we lost.
However, in this post, I am going to be talking about mental health- and mostly about someone I knew.
About a year and half ago, through Facebook, I was able to "catch up" with a girl I went to middle school with. She was our friend, our playmate. Although we have all grown up and taken different paths, hers scared me a bit.
She constantly had Facebook status talking about the illuminati, freemasonry and the like. She constantly questioned authority and the "white man's system". She talked of finding spirituality and becoming Rastafarian. She talked fondly of her 'leader'--a regular man--who guided her into the right path. She talked of loving her then few months old daughter and wanting to get rid of her muddied past and start fresh. She also spoke of homeschooling her child and being wary of vaccinations because of the potential harm they could cause.
Being myself, I often questioned her statuses and argued with her. I am very opinionated and I rarely back down when given the chance to make a point. So I did. And I did so very often. It got to a point that she started making statuses about me and how I was trying to derail her. At another point, her 'leader' even joined and told me to back off and said that I needed to rejoin the 'Black Family'.
Back then, I blew it off as that she was "crazy" and was "miseducated", but I never doubted that she was clinically sane or that she loved her daughter. Back then, I 'knew' that in time, she would be back to 'normal'.
Subsequently, she deleted me off Facebook and I hadn't heard from her since.
Fast forward to January 1st, 2013, a few hours after landing back in Toronto after my trip to Nigeria, I was watching the news and was taken aback by a photo of a young lady and her daughter and underneath, the caption stated something like "woman arrested, charged with second degree murder of her daughter".
Then another, more clear photo was shown, then her name. And it was then that I had flashbacks of many Facebook arguments as well as many middle school laughs. I was slightly confused. It couldn't be true. This could not be the same girl. As quickly as the flashbacks came, I googled her name, and I visited Facebook pages of old friends--then I knew, it was true. It really was her.
She allegedly killed her daughter who would have been 3 years old in March 2013.
This is not the kind of thing a normal person does. There has to be some kind of explanation. Brief psychotic episode? Previously diagnosed Schizophrenia? It had to be something, right? Right?
There has been a publication ban on her psychiatric evaluation and there hasn't been much else said about this case in the news.
This brings me to the point of my post. Do we, especially in the black community, too quickly disregard mental illness? Did she, a year and half ago and possibly before, show signs of impending doom if she didn't receive help? Was she receiving help? Did she even need help?
For the past 10 days, I have been thinking, if I had known then, what I know now, would I have tried harder to get her some help? I knew something was wrong, but I didn't know what and I certainly didn't know how serious.
I really think we need to start recognizing signs of mental illness and start getting people the help they need and deserve.
I cannot say for sure that this girl did or does have a mental illness, and I am most definitely not excusing her alleged act but I am however pleading with you, my readers, to learn more, know more.
RIP E. SW
RIP to the many many victims of senseless crimes.