Editor's Note: This post discusses suicide. If you have experienced suicidal thoughts, this article might be potentially triggering. If you or someone you know is experiencing dark thoughts of hopelessness or feeling suicidal, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
As Told To is a recurring segment on xoNecole where real women are given a platform to tell their stories in the first-person narrative as told to a writer.
This is Dr. Arabia Mollette's story, edited by Charmin Michelle.
A few weeks back, I read the story of This is Us writer, Jas Waters, who had committed suicide at the age of 39.
I didn't know her personally, but I knew of her accomplishments as a fantastic writer for various television shows and her work on the movie, What Men Want. To help me gain a better understanding of who she was, I decided to visit her Twitter page. For the most part, her tweets were inspiring and thoughtful. Some mentioned her struggles with anxiety. I was enamored with who she was.
But it was this tweet that stood out:
Was it a cry for help?
Additionally, R&B singer and Braxton Family Values star, Tamar Braxton, was admitted to a hospital following a suicide attempt at a Los Angeles hotel, which she has since publicly addressed. She was found unconscious inside her room after a possible overdose from unspecified pills and alcohol. Again, the professional in me drove me to her social media accounts, searching for possible signs of depression. One of her posts mentioned not feeling as confident, how affected she was by blogs talking about her hair loss from stress, experiencing ups and downs in her life, and yet bouncing back from it all.
But a post that alerted me most stated, "I just want to know if anyone else besides me needs a vacation...", of course, a popular and common question amongst everyone since the pandemic began. Even still, I couldn't help but wonder, was any of her posts also a cry for help?
Although the mental health toll of the coronavirus pandemic has begun to reveal itself, it's still too early to predict the impact it has had on our mental health—but did the chaos of the pandemic take a toll on her?
These examples are all high-profile cases on the topic of suicide, but I want to know how those of us who are reading this are holding up too.
As an Emergency Physician, not only have I taken care of a variety of patients challenged with chronic depression, anxiety, and other mental health disorders, but I too suffered tremendously from depression and anxiety—starting back in my early childhood. I was raised in a poverty-stricken, single-parent household, in a South Bronx housing project in the 80's. My family struggled with drug addiction, poverty, domestic violence, crime and a host of other issues.
At the age of 7, I remember sitting alone in the bedroom I shared with my siblings, staring out of the window, and thinking, "Maybe it would be best if I did not live."
I recall my spirit feeling so heavy and I felt the weight of the world on my shoulders. I did not understand what I was feeling, nor did I know how to process all of those emotions. I did not tell my mother because she was suffering from mental health issues and was silently crying for help herself. And unfortunately for the first time, when I was 11 years old, I witnessed my mother's attempt to commit suicide.
Today, the state of America's mental health system continues to deteriorate and there is a lack of good mental health services for Black Americans. According to a recent 2018 study from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), suicide rates in 2016 sorely increased to approximately 25 percent in the United States in nearly twenty years. Twenty-five states including Indiana, South Carolina, and Minnesota experienced an increase in suicides by more than 30 percent, tallying a total of over 45,000 people who died from committing suicide.
Studies show that adolescents and young adults have the highest rate of suicide of any age group of Black Americans. And even more alarming, suicide was found to be the third-leading cause of death among Black Americans ages 15 to 19 years, fourth among those ages 20 to 29 years, and eighth among those ages 30 to 39 (with 56% of Black teen females that died by suicide, used strangulation or suffocation and 21% used firearms.). Black women have a higher incidence of suicidal thoughts due to poverty and the racial and gender bias that we experience.
Ladies, we are literally considering suicide more than any other race or gender, all due to societal norms; all for simply existing.
And although we're less likely to actually act on committing suicide, the statistics of follow-through, are there—on a higher scale than they should be.
From generation to generation, many of us, including myself, were taught that mental illness is a "white disease". Even today, there are stigmas surrounding mental health issues, and they're looked at as a sign of spiritual weakness. "All we have to do is give it to God and just pray it away."
Those ideologies stem from Black Americans having a huge mistrust of our healthcare system, and that distrust is ultimately being passed down from generation to generation. America historically has a legacy of medical and scientific research mistreatment and abuse to Black people that span over centuries, and additionally, costs and access to culturally competent mental health care professionals are barriers to treatment for marginalized communities.
When I was a teenager, I believed psychotherapy was taboo. I was unaware of the benefits of therapy. For many years, I was often reminded how strong I am, but I was dangerously suffering in silence. I, too, went to church and asked the congregation on numerous occasions to pray for me because I thought the prayers would make all of my problems go away. I believed God could love me again. Don't misunderstand, there's nothing wrong with seeking care through family or church, but it wasn't enough for me. I was in dire need of help; my anxiety heightened, which then pushed my decision to seek out a therapist.
Photo Courtesy of Ruthie Darling
And I haven't looked back since.
When I tell people my story, oftentimes I hear, "Well, you're a doctor, and you're in therapy and made it through. So can I." Which is absolutely true. Both myself, and any mental health care professional's only hope, is for you to know that in sharing our stories, we are creating the ability to build those necessary connections in assisting and making therapy suitable for many. And no matter how strong we may seem, or how diligent we are expected to be from society, Black women and young girls are committing suicide, or have attempted to take their own lives, at staggering rates.
No more. I want us all to emphasize no longer having to suffer alone or in silence.
Let's ask for professional help. Let's dismantle the "strong woman" myth and admit to suffering from depression, anxiety or thinking suicidal thoughts.
We must take care of ourselves, and we must take care of each other so that we do not continue to pour from an empty cup. Let's demand for culturally sensitive therapists and look for ways to carve out safe spaces for us to be vulnerable. Because at the end of the day, no one can tell your story better than you.
So...are you good, sis?
If you or someone you know is experiencing dark thoughts of hopelessness or feeling suicidal, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
Dr. Arabia is currently an ER Physician at Brookdale Hospital Medical Center. She has been featured on CNN, The New York Times, NBC News, BET and a host of other media outlets where she often discusses her passion for black women's health. To learn more, visit her website.
Feature image courtesy of Ruthie Darling
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Charmin Michelle is a southern native and creative spirit who works as a content marketer and events manager in Chicago. She enjoys traveling, #SummertimeChi, and the journey of mastering womanhood. Connect with her on Instagram @charminmichelle.
Chief Mom Officer: 23 Quotes From Working Moms Finding Their Balance
The truth is, Black moms create magic every single day. Whether we're juggling motherhood with a busy 9-5, a thriving business, or staying at home to run a household, no day is short of amazing when you're managing life as a mommy. This Mother's Day, xoNecole is giving flowers to CMOs (Chief Mom Officers) in business who exemplify the strength it takes to balance work with motherhood.
We've commissioned these ladies, who are pillars in their respective industries, for tidbits of advice to get you through the best and worst days of mothering. Here, they share their "secret sauce" and advice for other moms trying to find their rhythm.
Emmelie De La Cruz, Chief Strategist at One Day CMO
"My mom friends and I all laugh and agree: Motherhood is the ghettoest thing you will ever do. It's beautiful and hard all at the same time, but one day you will wake up and feel like 'I got this' and you will get the hang of it. After 4 months, I finally felt like I found my footing to keep my kid and myself alive, but it took vulnerability to take off the cape and be honest about the areas that I didn't have it all together. The healing (physically and emotionally) truly does happen in community - whatever and whoever that looks like for you."
Alizè V. Garcia, Director Of Social & Community Impact at Nike
"I would tell a new mom or a prospective mother that they must give themselves grace, understand and remember there is no right way to do this thing and have fun! When I had my daughter three and a half years ago, I was petrified! I truly had no clue about what to do and how I was going to do it. But with time, my confidence grew and I realized quickly that I have all the tools I need to be the mother I want to be."
Nikki Osei-Barrett, Publicist + Co-Founder of The Momference
"There's no balance. I'm dropping sh*t everywhere! However, my secret sauce is pursuing interests and hobbies outside of what's required of me and finding time to workout. Stronger body equals = stronger mind."
Lauren Grove, Chief Experience Architect, The Grant Access, LLC
"I try to give myself grace. That’s my mantra for this phase of motherhood…grace. I won’t be able to get everything done. To have a spotless house. To not lose my cool after an exhausting day. Those things can’t happen all of the time. But I can take a deep breath and know tomorrow is another day and my blessings are more plentiful than my pitfalls."
Rachel Nicks, Founder & CEO of Birth Queen
"You have the answers within you. Don’t compare yourself to others. Curate your life to work for you. Ask for help."
Tanisha Colon-Bibb, Founder + CEO Rebelle Agency + Rebelle Management
"I know love doesn't pay bills but when I am overwhelmed with work or client demands I take a moment to play with my baby and be reminded of the love, energy, science, and Godliness that went into his birth. I am brightened by his smile and laugh. I remember I am someone's parent and not just a work horse. That at the end of the day everything will work out for the good of my sanity and the love within my life."
Christina Brown, Founder of LoveBrownSugar & BabyBrownSugar
"Learning your rhythm as a mom takes time and can be uncomfortable when you’re in a season of overwhelm. Constantly check in with yourself and assess what’s working and what’s not. Get the help you need without feeling guilty or ashamed of needing it."
Mecca Tartt, Executive Director of Startup Runway Foundation
"I want to be the best for myself, my husband, children and company. However, the reality is you can have it all but not at the same time. My secret sauce is outsourcing and realizing that it’s okay to have help in order for me to perform at the highest level."
Jen Hayes Lee, Head Of Marketing at The Bump (The Knot Worldwide)
"My secret sauce is being direct and honest with everyone around me about what I need to be successful in all of my various "jobs". Setting boundaries is one thing, but if you're the only one who knows they exist, your partners at home and on the job can't help you maintain them. I also talk to my kids like adults and let them know why mommy needs to go to this conference or get this massage...they need to build an appreciation for my needs too!"
Whitney Gayle-Benta, Chief Music Officer JKBX
"What helps me push through each day is the motivation to continue by thinking about my son. All my efforts, though exhausting, are to create a wonderful life for him."
Ezinne Okoro, Global Chief Inclusion, Equity, & Diversity Officer at Wunderman Thompson,
"The advice I received that I’ll pass on is, you will continue to figure it out and find your rhythm as your child grows into new stages. Trust your nurturing intuition, parent on your terms, and listen to your child."
Jovian Zayne, CEO of The OnPurpose Movement
"I live by the personal mantra: 'You can’t be your best self by yourself.' My life feels more balanced when I offer the help I can give and ask for the help I need. This might mean outsourcing housecleaning for my home, or hiring additional project management support for my business."
Simona Noce Wright, Co-Founder of District Motherhued and The Momference
"Each season of motherhood (depending on age, grade, workload) requires a different rhythm. With that said, be open to learning, to change, and understand that what worked for one season may not work the other...and that's okay."
Janaye Ingram, Director of Community Partner Programs and Engagement at Airbnb
"My daughter's smile and sweet spirit help me to feel gratitude when I'm overwhelmed. I want her to see a woman who doesn't quit when things get hard."
Codie Elaine Oliver, CEO & Founder of Black Love
"I try to listen to my body and simply take a break. With 3 kids and a business with 10+ team members, I often feel overwhelmed. I remind myself that I deserve grace for everything I'm juggling, I take a walk or have a snack or even head home to see my kids, and then I get back to whatever I need to get done."
Jewel Burks Solomon, Managing Partner at Collab Capital
"Get comfortable with the word ‘no’. Be very clear about your non-negotiables and communicate them to those around you."
Bridget Bogee, Marketing Lead At Meta
"Ask for help and always prioritize making time for you."
Julee Wilson, Executive Director at BeautyUnited and Beauty Editor-at-Large at Cosmopolitan
"Understand you can’t do it alone — and that’s ok. Relinquish the need to control everything. Create a village and lean on them."
Salwa Benyaich, Director Of Pricing and Planning at Premion
"Most days I really try to shut my computer off by 6 pm; there are always exceptions of course when it comes to big deals or larger projects but having this as a baseline allows me to be much more present with my kids. I love the fact that I can either help with homework or be the designated driver to at least one afterschool activity. Work can be draining but there is nothing more emotionally draining than when you feel as though you are missing out on moments with your kids."
Brooke Ellis, Head of Global Marketing & Product Launches at Amazon Music
My calendar, prayer, pilates class at Forma, a good playlist, and oatmilk lattes all help get me through any day.
Courtney Beauzile, Global Director of Client and Business Development at Shearman & Sterling
My husband is a partner who steps in when I just can’t. My mom and my MIL come through whenever and however I need. My kids have many uncles and aunts and they will lend an ear, go over homework, teach life lessons, be a presence or a prayer warrior depending on the day.
Robin Snipes, Chief of Staff at Meta
"Enjoy the time you have to yourself because once kids come those times will be few and far between."
Monique Bivens, CEO & Founder at Brazilian Babes LLC.
"For new moms, it is very important that you get back into a habit or routine of something you use to do before you were pregnant. Consider the actives and things that give you the most joy and make the time to do them."
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Featured image by Westend61/Getty Images
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Tracee Ellis Ross On Why She Declined The Idea Of Someone Else Running Her Hair Company
Actress and entrepreneur Tracee Ellis Ross recently revealed the driving force behind her desire to become the owner of her haircare brand, Pattern.
According to its site, Pattern is a haircare company that provides a wide range of products, from shampoos, conditioners, oils, creams, and many more to individuals with curls, coils, and tight hair textures. Although Pattern would launch in 2019, the idea for the company first came to Ross a decade before --in 2008, when her hit show Girlfriends wrapped-- following a brief encounter at a beauty supply store and many wanting to recreate her past looks.
At the time, those individuals couldn't achieve the exact results because limited natural hair products were offered to the public. That instance became a pivotal moment in the star's life because she spent eleven years experimenting with professionals to create products that best suit those within the natural hair community.
In a May conference with Fortune's MPW Next Gen, Ross opened up about the struggles she faced early on as an entrepreneur trying to get Pattern off the ground and why she declined the offer to have the company be run by someone else.
Tracee On Past Struggles And Why She Chose To Run Her Company
During the discussion, the 50-year-old revealed that she is Pattern's "majority owner" because the company's overall mission to cater to those in the natural hair community was built from her "experiential knowledge."
"I'm a majority owner of my company. [Other celebrities with brands] aren't the founders of the company. Often, they join a company that exists," she said. "The mission [at Pattern] is born out of my experience. It's born out of my own experiential knowledge."
Further in the interview, Ross would add that she avoided partnering with an expert for Pattern because she felt she had gained enough knowledge experimenting with products in her bathroom.
"I didn't want to partner with an expert or a 'professional' because I felt—like so many—I had become my own best expert in my bathroom because the beauty industry was not catering to us," she stated.
Despite refusing to have a partner within her company, Ross found creative ways to build it. It includes paying a chemist with her own money to bring her visions of various products to life, and sending those samples to retail stores, ultimately leading to partnerships.
The final piece that helped Ross during her journey was receiving advice from business partners on ways to improve the brand, one of which came from Ulta Beauty CEO and Footlocker CEO Mary Dillon.
The black-ish star claimed that Dillon helped her realize how she could use her celebrity status and journey to promote Pattern, which she did. Because of that, Patten has now become a favorable haircare brand among many.
Tracee On How She Plans To Use Her Company To Create Opportunities For Others
Toward the end of the discussion, Ross disclosed how she plans to use the power of being Pattern's CEO to help others.
The High Note star explained that being an owner of a company has given her access to be around other CEOs interested in what appears to be becoming more profitable, and with that, she wants to expand that access to other people.
"I know that I have access to sit at a table with a CEO in a way that perhaps another founder doesn't. And when I do that, I make sure that those conversations are not only centered around Pattern," she said. "They're centered around creating and expanding the access for all of us."
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Feature image by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for The Webby Awards