“Good morning Gabriela, sweetie.”
“Good morning, mom.” She said as she came down the living room stairs and sat down at the kitchen table.
Her mother kissed her in the cheek and prepared her lunch bag with leftover brown rice, fresh veggies and fruits.
“You don’t look too happy, what’s wrong?” the mother said as she finished packing her lunch.
“…Have you noticed Michael hasn’t been acting himself lately? I mean…do you think we should get him checked out by a medical doctor before it gets worse?”
The mother sucked her teeth at her response.
“Oh, honey you’re just exaggerating, he’s just sad that he hasn’t found a prom date yet, and plus he’s a senior and you know how that goes with graduation and trying to decide on the right school/universities to attend. He’s fine.” She said frivolously.
“But mom, even his friends kept telling me that he’s not acting himself when they’re hanging out with him, and he’s starting to eat alone now in the cafeteria for lunch… like a weirdo just laughing to himself and – and every time he comes home from school, he’s always locking himself in the room for the entire day.” She said standing up.
“Look sweetie, you’re going to be late for school. I said your brother is alright and ain’t nothing wrong with him, so get going.” She said giving her the lunch bag.
“End of discussion!”
* * *
The school bell rings as all the students rushed out of class to head to lunch. When the students made their way to the cafeteria, a sudden disturbance caught their attention as they witnessed a young boy who was visibly distraught sitting down on the concrete floor sobbing.
“YO, I DON’T KNOW WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME! I CAN’T TAKE IT, AAAaaaaahhhh!!!!” He shouted.
Shocked and curious, the students began circling around the young boy.
Having a premonition of fear, Gabriela paid no attention to the scene as she walked towards the cafeteria whispering “Oh Lord, please don’t let it be him, please don’t let it be him…”
“Aye, Gabriela is that your brother out here acting all crazy and stuff?!” A girl said smirking.
Everyone then turns to Gabriela and stared. They began laughing as a group of boys blurted out inhumane comments:
“This dude is freaking crazy man.”
“Stay away from drugs, stuff have you messed up for real dawg”
“Ha, this boy acting a fool.”
“Buddy is POSSESSED!”
The harsh remarks from the group of boys made all the students laugh as the young boy stood down helplessly crying.
The school’s principal then rushed out and cleared the way holding a megaphone in his right hand. He lift it up to his mouth and commenced to speak.
“ALRIGHT STUDENTS, MAKE YOUR WAY INTO THE CAFETERIA. COME ON, LET’S MOVE IT, LET’S MOVE IT!”
To Be continued…
Side note: Pseudonyms were used to protect individuals’ confidentiality.
Based on a true story, the scene provide prominence to the underlying issues of many individuals in our community that does not understand nor recognize the signs and dynamics of mental health disorders. There has been many young people who are diagnosed with mental disorders that has been misrepresented by their disorders with cruel labels. Michael, the young man that you’ve briefly read about here was called names such as crazy, weird, and possessed, by students who didn’t really know what was wrong with him- to make matter worse, Michael didn’t even know what he was going through himself to justify. His sister Gabriela sense that something was abnormal about her brother’s behavior and even recommended him seeing a medical doctor. But she just couldn’t seem to discover the real problem her brother was facing…
Photo credit: Alisa Hrustic
So, when people see someone they don’t know that’s going through a mental crisis, we would usually here things like:
“Oh snap, for real?! You mean that’s the person who stay on the 5th floor? Well…glad I’m not related to them, ha! That’s not my problem!”
“I don’t know that person, so it’s none of my business what they’re going through.”
“I don’t care.”
“I always knew that person was crazy.”
“Hmp. I’m not gonna even get involve in this craziness. You see, that’s why it’s important ya’ll young folks should stay in school and church! That’s all imma say.”
The point is this, it becomes our problem the moment it affects the community and the people in our lives. It’s cases like Michael’s that the need of Mental Health Advocacy is needed to show support, educate, and inform. I have to go back to the word support because that’s what it’s primarily all about. Individuals that are going through mental illness needs as much support as they can, especially from their family and community. Nine out of ten they’re mostly afraid of what’s happening to them and they won’t even use their voice to call out for help. Such individuals are in a position where they need someone to be their advocate. They don’t say it but they show it through their action, whether it’s out of anger or sadness. Many young people of color in the community resembles Michael’s concern and are dealing with a number of mental issues with no real outlet to learn about or express their feelings. I’ve seen a few who develop addictions that destroy their lives due to little aid and support. As people of God, we must do are part to help our fellow brothers and sisters in any way (prayer, support, time, love, understanding, encouragements, etc.) when they’re down.
“Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. ” (Galatians 6:2, NKJV)
Photo credit: Amy Eliza Wong
Terri M William declared in her book “Black Pain” that people’s mental health influence their ability to handle stress, relate to other people and make decisions. William touched base on how essential it is to not ignore your emotions as she stated “No one owns us anymore, but avoiding painful emotions has become a cultural habit, a habit that prevents so many Black people from openly acknowledging sadness and pain.We pay a high price for these habits of survival: The price is our well-being.”
With that being said, I feel that it is important for people to be aware of Mental Health and the importance of Self-Care which brings us to be a voice to the voiceless (mental health advocacy). The sooner we know about mental health, the better suited we are in unity to play our role upon those issues. Had there been students and the community having an awareness that includes certain form of education and knowledge of mental health, the students would’ve then recognized such sign and symptom with a more conducive approach to the incident. And in that case, it could’ve probably went something like this:
The school bell rings as all the students rushed out of class to head to lunch. When the students made their way to the cafeteria, a sudden disturbance caught their attention as they saw a young boy who was visibly distraught sitting down on the concrete floor sobbing.
“YO, I DON’T KNOW WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME!!! I CAN’T TAKE IT, AAAaaaaahhhh!!!!” He shouted.
Concerned and in disbelief, the students began circling around the young man.
Gabriela immediately directed her attention to the scene as she walked towards the young man whispering “Lord, I knew it… my brother is going through a mental crisis.”
A girl ran up to Gabriela.
“Aye, Gabriela your brother Michael is having a mental breakdown, I’ll be right back, I’m going to get the school’s counselor right away! ” She said running to the school’s office.
A group of boys blurted out encouraging words to the young boy:
“Aye, yo dawg we’re here for you! We’re in this together!”
“Seems like Michael has some psychosis disorder, man. Mental Health is real.
“God is stronger than your issues, you got this!”
[Minutes later, the school counselor ran as fast as she can to the scene.]
“Thank you so much students for your understanding and encouragement, but it’s time to resume back to your regular schedule. Your friend will be okay and is in good hands now…”
To be continued..
Rather than the students staring and making jokes towards the issue, they would’ve shown empathy and support – unequivocally assuring Michael that there was nothing to be ashamed about. Increasing advocacy to our community will aid people within the community in becoming a voice to those who are in need such as Michael in all settings (hospital, home, school, workplace, neighborhood, etc.). It’ll uplift and influence the ones that are suffering mentally to have a sense of their own issues and respond effectively to it.
“4 million children in the US suffer from a serious mental health disorder that causes significant functional impairments at home, school, and among peers. It is estimated that fewer than one in five of such children receives needed treatment.
There’s an alarming 65 percent of boys and 75 percent of girls in Juvenile detention have at least one mental disorder. Mental Health is an essential component of young people’s overall health and well-being. It affects how young people think, feel, and act; their ability to learn and engage in relationships;their ability to evaluate situations and options to make choices”
– Glen Ellis, Health Educator, Columnist, and Author
So, can anyone guess what was Michael’s problem? What kind of mental illness do you think he have? And how do you think his sister Gabriela would react to him regarding his action? Embarrassed? Resentful? Confused? We shall soon see in my next post. Until then, be bless.
Best, Dahana St Jean