For Brown Girls, Karyn Washington Commits Suicide: Yes, Black People Suffer Depression Too

BY: - 15 Apr '14 | Home

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Last week, I joined thousands of people in shock, sadness and devastation as we learned about the passing of Karyn Washington, creator of For Brown Girls and the #DarkSkinRedLip project. Her mission was to encourage, empower and uplift women of color to recognize the beauty in darker skin, exchange dialogue regarding experiences, and discover ways to get rid of insecurities. Unfortunately, it was reported that Karyn committed suicide as a result of dealing with severe depression after the loss of her mother.

In this post, I Am Karyn Washington: Suicide, Depression & Mothers Who Left Us, by Ty Alexander, she gives insight into her relationship with Karyn and the battle with depression that they both suffered after losing their mothers (get the tissues ready). She opens up to the world by sharing not only her own battle, but the personal e-mails that the two exchanged over time. Yes, these were personal e-mails exchanged and some might think it rude or selfish to share with the world. But I, for one, was grateful for the insight. For me, I saw the post as a plea: a plea for black people to start taking depression and mental health seriously. A plea for us to realize that some of the strongest women around us, are the ones who need our help the most. It’s a plea to stop thinking that just because everything “looks” picture perfect, just because she wears a big smile, doesn’t mean that everything ok.

When are we going to stop looking down on mental illness in our community? When are we going to stop treating it as a sign of weakness? When are going to stop believing that it’s only a “white” thing or that all we have to do is “pray about it”? When are we going to stop judging our brothers and sisters for seeking therapy and treatment, especially as it relates to depression? How many more Karyn Washington’s do we have to lose before we wake up and realize that we are not immune to mental illness?

I still remember the shock of hearing about a close friend of my parents who committed suicide by hanging himself in his back yard. He left behind a young family. He was hurting but had stopped taking his medicine, probably because he was led to feel like he didn’t need it. When we let go of the judgment, the stares, the whispers, the stigma, maybe then, people in our community will feel more comfortable coming to us or seeking help when they need it.

I love the Lord just as much as the next person. But shoving prayer in someone’s face when they feel like they want to take their own life, I could imagine might be like telling someone who is having an asthma attack to just pray on it, as opposed to taking their inhaler. Encourage them. Yes, pray for them. But plead with them to seek counseling. Check in with them often. Ask them how they are feeling. Most importantly, let them know how loved they are and how much they are needed. Let them know that they are not alone.

You probably speak to a Karyn Washington every day and don’t even realize it. This story has truly made me reflect on my own actions. It’s opened my eyes once again to the severity and seriousness of mental health in our community. It’s beyond shock and awe. It’s making me think about the strongest women (and men) in my life, and wonder if they are okay? I’m not a hundred percent certain, but I will surely be asking the question.

And if you’re reading this now and this sounds like you, know this: you are loved, you are needed. You matter. Please don’t feel ashamed to reach out and ask for the help, treatment, support and encouragment that you need.

BMWK: Have you or someone you know suffered with depression or other severe form of mental illness? What advice do you have for others who may be in a similar situation?

About the author

Christine St. Vil wrote 153 articles on this blog.

Christine St.Vil is co-author of the Whose Shoes Are Your Wearing: 12 Steps to Uncovering the Woman You Really Want to Be. A happy wife to an amazing hubby of 8 years, and homeschooling mother of three, she teaches moms how to FLY (First Love Yourself). She uses her corporate background to work with women who are ready to start a new business, accelerate their career growth & design a life they love. She's on a mission to help moms to battle the mom guilt epidemic, so they can begin to put themselves first on their never-ending list of priorities.


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15 WordPress comments on “For Brown Girls, Karyn Washington Commits Suicide: Yes, Black People Suffer Depression Too

    1. Christine St. Vil Post author

      Hi Rona,
      Thank you so much for sharing your interview on Huff Post. It brought me to tears but also opened my eyes as well to the significance of depression. There is a lot of profound info in this interview. I wish you all the best as you continue to fight this disease.

  1. Ty Alexander

    I am finally catching up on all of the articles that shared my post. I didn’t do it for traffic or to dishonor her name…I wanted to show people that she and I were struggling and that I had my own regrets in not sharing with her more.

    I thank you for sharing and most important I thank you for reading my words instead of judging me for sharing Karyn’s personal emails to me.

    1. Christine St. Vil Post author

      Hi Ty, if it’s one thing I’ve learned about the blogosphere, is that people will take and only read what they want to (and rarely the whole thing). I think what you did was brave, and it didn’t come off as malicious in any way to me. So thank you again for sharing your (and Karen’s) story.

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  3. Jess

    I was never formally diagnosed with depression but it doesn’t need a label for me to know what I’m struggling with. I used to starve myself and when that became noticeable I started to cut. Those were my ways of coping. Nobody around me had ANY idea the pain and torture I was living with. I was VERY suicidal as well. I made the decision one day that I needed help and I didn’t care what anyone thought because I was in a life or death situation. Now I still struggle with it but my therapist and I were able to help me find other ways to deal with it.

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Putting African Americans in the Story: The Atlanta History Center Presents The Kinsey Collection

BY: - 15 Apr '14 | Home

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Have you ever heard of the “myth of absence”? Bernard Kinsey defines it as:

…being there, but not a part of the story…being invisibly present. You are there but you don’t matter.

Bernard Kinsey, and his wife, Shirley have dedicated their lives to ensuring that African Americans are part of the American History story.  The Kinseys have amassed an impressive collection of authentic and rare art, artifacts, books, documents and manuscripts that tell the often untold story of African American achievement and contribution.  And for the past few years, they have been traveling the country with their touring museum exhibit, The Kinsey Collection, that dates back to the 1600s.

The Kinsey’s believe that we [African Americans] have a hole in our hearts because we are missing a connection to our history.

African American history fills in the holes…and it shows us that we (African Americans) were here and that we matter.”- Bernard Kinsey

And so now they are sharing this piece of American History (yes our history is American History) with millions of people across the country.  The Kinseys hope to peak your curiosity as you walk through the exhibit. They want you to think about your own story and to leave with a desire to explore your own personal history – – fill in the holes.

Wells Fargo has partnered with the Atlanta History Center to bring over one hundred and thirty pieces of the The Kinsey Collection to Atlanta, GA.  The collection that they brought to Atlanta features select, never before displayed artifacts, such as a first edition of Solomon Northrup’s 12 Years a Slave,  which is the basis of the Academy Award-winning film.

cultivators_web_Kinsey CollectionI was able to see the Kinsey Collection last year during a visit to Disney’s Epcot theme park which also has artifacts from the collection on display.  I was so very impressed to hear about Bernard and Shirley’s past and about what gave them the desire to research their own history as well as share it with others.  And I have to admit that the Kinsey’s do meet their objectives for the exhibit, as I left there totally inspired to research my own family history.

And now, I am so very excited to share the collection with our children here in Atlanta.  Here are a few details about the collection at The Atlanta History Center:

  • The exhibit will be on display until July 13, 2014.
  • Thanks to Wells Fargo  on the third full weekend of each month, April – June 2014, all guests will receive FREE admission to the Atlanta History Center, including The Kinsey Collection exhibition – Free Admission Weekends are April 19 & 20; May 17 &18, June 21 & 22.
  • Along with the exhibit they will bring history to life through engaging and interactive museum theatre performances – Gallery Performances.

BMWK – please make it a point to visit The Kinsey Collection at The Atlanta History Center this summer.

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About the author

Ronnie Tyler wrote 527 articles on this blog.

Ronnie Tyler is the co-creator of and co-producer of the films Happily Ever After: A Positive Image of Black Marriage, You Saved Me, Men Ain't Boys and Still Standing. The proud mom of 4 has been selected by Parenting Magazine as a Must-Read Mom and is one of Babble's Top 100 Mom Bloggers.


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