This week has been painful in the news in terms of violent deaths. It is downright saddening to see the news coverage of both young teens whom we've never met, as well as celebrity icons who have held a special place in our hearts for years. However, in the midst of the sadness comes controversy over whose death we should be mourning more. It has become almost a bidding war for the hearts of the American public that has been filling up social media feeds as to why we should choose one cause over another.
An issue that is of extreme concern for many of my minority peers is the senseless violence in the black community. This past week we have watched as people began to riot and protest over the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson Missouri. The details of his death are still up for debate, as police try and justify their reasoning for killing him and residents try and unveil the pattern of racial unrest in that area. The result has been anger, fear, and dozens of photos showing the police in what looks like a state of war.
Just as disturbing has been the murder of 16 year old Alexandra Cherry who was allegedly raped and killed by her mother's boyfriend. The mainstream media covered the story in the first couple of days, but Alexandra's story has since been replaced by the news of the suicide of Actor Robin Williams. The 63 year old was known for bringing us years of laughter with movies such as Mrs. Doubtfire, Jumanji, and Good Morning Vietnam. Williams' suicide sparked controversy with some religious groups across the country because suicide is viewed as a sin. It is considered selfish, altruistic, and demonic. So that sparks the question of, Should we feel sorry for someone who committed such a sin, and in turn hurt his family to the core? Why should we care about him taking his own life when there are young people dying all across the country? I'll tell you why we should care.
Williams' suicide comes after years of struggling with depression and substance abuse to attempt to hide from depression. Williams is a classic example of what happens when mental illness is left untreated. People lead these very public lives filled with an immense amount of pressure that only pushes them deeper into confusion, anger, resentment, and chaotic feelings of despair. If you combine the male ego with these already unstable feelings, it is a recipe for disaster. Men are "not supposed to show weakness". Men have to remain strong no matter what. So asking for help is a no-no.
Remember Chris Lighty, the music producer who surprisingly committed suicide a couple of years ago? Hearing that someone like Robin Williams committed suicide is not a complete surprise because of his past trials with depression and substance abuse, but Chris Lighty's suicide came as a shock to most who knew him. They insisted that Lighty never displayed any signs of depression, anxiety, or uncertainty. As a male who worked in an uber macho environment, Lighty was unlikely to show what he was indeed feeling deep down under the surface. To this day, many who know him say that they don't believe his death was indeed a suicide because he "wasn't the type". But what is that "type"?
Our young males are faced with the battle of trying to maintain these images that were super imposed upon them by society. They are left with feelings of despair that lead to either suicide or violence. While you may not feel sympathetic to criminals and their destructive activity, bear in mind that many of these young men are committing crimes because their mental illnesses were left untreated. The young California college student who went on a killing spree that targeted women (with whom he felt rejected him as a whole) did so because he was mentally ill.The man who allegedly raped and killed his stepdaughter is obviously harboring some sort of mental instability; just as countless others who rape, torture, and kill innocent victims are obviously mean, evil, and mentally ill. The countless number of ANGRY police officers who shoot to kill instead of using bargaining tactics may have unsettled emotions and a history of mental illness. And the Chris Lighty's and Robin Williams' of the world were definitely hiding some sort of mental illness. It is a real problem in our community regardless of skin color. It is an illness that results in having to look at an innocent young girl's face that her mother will never see again. It an illness that is taking people away from us way too soon. The end result to not helping these people is that they either kill someone or kill themselves. But either way, there is a family that suffers in the end.