I just don’t think I’m going to be here much longer.”
Those were the last words Tony Cornelius heard his father, Don Cornelius speak before he fatally shot himself in the head. Don Cornelius, the man who had every black boy and girl pretending to wait their turn in the Soul Train Line on Saturday mornings. Who else could get black women wearing halter tops with gigantic Afros and bell bottoms to play word scramble while dancing to the latest R and B hits? One of the most innovative African-American businessmen of our time, he created the model for success while controlling his own brand designed strictly for entertaining us, black people. After all that, he took his life because he didn’t believe there was any value left. He was older, divorced, rarely in the limelight and perhaps depressed by what life looked like. It’s hard to believe he felt he had nothing else left to give on earth. But he’s not the only one. I’m noticing a trend with our black men. When they reach the pinnacle of achievement, they are untouchable. But when they fall of the radar, or have public humiliations, it’s like they disintegrate into six-year-old boys whose only solace is their moms.
I can’t help but think of Jessie Jackson, Jr. who has been absent from the public spotlight for several weeks since suffering from symptoms of depression. Early reports show he’s inpatient for intensive treatment. I’m aware the Chicago Democrat is also under investigation for possibly soliciting funds for Barak Obama’s senate seat after the historic presidential election. Many are skeptical now and the assumption is he’s faking his depression. But if he’s not, he may have waited until the stress of the being investigated was unbearable before being forced to seek help.
I strongly believe black men carry a larger amount of stress in society. They hide embarrassment on the job, from getting passed over for promotions to racially insensitive jabs. They hide the pain of feeling inadequate for their families and always getting second glances just to make sure they aren’t going to rob someone.
We need our men. Not a fractured, band-aid version,broken, leaking version, but healthy, happy men God intended them to be. I know it’s not natural for men to share their feelings, but maybe it’s time to change the paradigm which allows men to keep the pain locked up until it’s too late.
Symptom for depression include a lack of sex drive, increased or decrease in weight, low energy, and feelings of guilt or worthlessness. Anytime these symptoms continue for more than two weeks, it’s time to seek the assistance of a doctor or counselor who can further test and recommend help.
We are the least likely to seek help for medical issues, but the price were paying is too much to continue avoiding the issues. Depression untreated can lead to multiple illnesses and lastly suicide. We can’t afford to lose another valuable man in our community.