The Politics of Mental Health
March 27, 2018 Dr. Kalilah L. Brown-Dean
Over the last year, I’ve lost two former students to suicide. Both bright, determined, outgoing young men of color. Both reconciling past trauma and current challenges. Both taken away too soon in shocking circumstances. Their lives hold meaning far beyond the circumstances of their deaths. Together, they are a perpetual reminder to all of us to look beyond the well-crafted public veneers to better address what we can do, collectively, to erase the stigma of mental illness.
NAMI reports that suicide is the second-leading cause of death of young people between the ages of 10 and 24. Ten. The same age as Ashawnty Davis, who took her life after confronting her bully. As the late Dr. Maya Angelou cautions, “Words are things. You must be careful. Some day we’ll be able to measure the power of words.”
If you are the parent, grandparent, auntie, village member of a young person in college, make a concerted effort to call and check on them as they navigate the second half of this semester. “Put your eyes” on them. Ask about more than just classes and grades. Ask them what they’re doing beyond the classroom to manage stress and life. Offer to be a listening ear, but recognize your own limitations. Help them to identify campus and local support resources. Consult organizations such as The Steve Fund that work to support students of color. Support your friends who work on college campuses and care for young people.
Stop believing that mental health challenges can just be prayed away. Asking for help doesn’t make you weak. It makes you better.
Dr. Khalilah L. Brown-Dean is an associate professor of Political Science at Quinnipiac University, where she writes about American politics, political psychology and public policy. You can follow her on Twitter @KBDPHD.