His Life Mattered

"My demons won today. I'm sorry."

That was the last Facebook post from MarShawn McCarrel, who shot himself to death on the steps of the Ohio Statehouse last week. From the outside MarShawn was an outspoken, strong, determined black civil rights activist. He was a founder and organiser of the Black Lives Matter movement. He campaigned for social justice and against police brutality. He inspired many. He galvanised for change. From an outside perspective he was a perfect example of strength and fortitude. 

But that's the problem with perspectives, they don't tell the full truth. He was strong. He did have fortitude. But his demons took him nonetheless. I'm not sure if everyone has demons. I know everyone has their problems, sadness, difficulties and challenges. That's the nature of life. I can only really see through my own eyes and I have some incredibly strong demons who are often pressing weights behind my back. Sometimes it feels like I'm stomping on their heads ecstatically and winning the day. Other times I worry that they'll beat me. At the moment I'm experiencing the former and for that I am grateful. 

The black community and the issue of mental health is one that is barely dealt with. Despite the challenges that minorities face, which would lead to to the likelihood of more emotional difficulties, so much is ignored and swept under the carpet. Within the black community mental illness is the juggernaut of pain who's name we don't dare to speak. In the wider community black people just often aren't part of the conversation, both due to exclusion by others and refusal of themselves. Suicide rates among black men are increasing and it is now the third cause of death for those aged 16-24 in America and the number of black children under 11 committing suicide has doubled in the last twenty years. And it's not just black men that are expected to never display their depression, but black women are notoriously dismissed for the same thing. As reporter Jim DeRogatis commented "No one matters less in our society than black women." In a Psychology Today article psychologist Marilyn Martin said, "Sixty-three percent of blacks see depression as a weakness, a problem only white girls can afford. We're supposed to 'bear up'. And if we don't we are being disloyal to our community in general and our aunts and grandmothers in particular."

There was a genetic study completed of descendants of holocaust survivors, which determined that trauma passed down through generations in the tissues of their bodies. In the western world Black carry the legacy of slavery in their beings. Trauma passes down through us too and that doesn't even address the current state of affairs that exists due to white privilege. 

The Year of Celebration is a blog dedicated to celebrating life every day, no matter what. Today I celebrate the life of MarShawn McCarrel and every other person that woke up one day and knew that this was the day the demons would win. Their lives mattered. So let's help those living with mental illness to know that theirs do too.

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