Helping with suicide awareness is among the cremation services provided in Warrensville Heights, OH. Americans, in general, avoid talking about suicide. We skirt the subject and obituaries and death notices by saying things like, “passed away suddenly” or “passed away unexpectedly,” even though it’s clear to anyone reading them that the person was neither sick nor elderly.
The stigma against suicide in the African-American community is even stronger because it is seen as a sign of weakness. There are unrealistic expectations among African Americans about the constant outward display of strength. We are expected to have it all together all the time. There is no discussion about mental health, emotional health, or seeking help from qualified professionals when we need it.
Yet we only have to look at a few names to understand that suicide, in the mental health issues that preceded them, is prevalent among the African-American community.
Don Cornelius, the genius behind the very popular TV show, Soul Train, which introduced many still-popular African-American entertainers to the world, died from a self-inflicted gun wound in 2012. Cornelius, who underwent complicated brain surgery in the late 1980s, said that he never felt the same mentally or physically after the surgery. Finally the pain and the mental strain caught up with him.
The singer and actress, Phyllis Hyman, committed suicide with a drug overdose in 1995. The suicide note Hyman left said, in part, “I’m tired. I’m tired. Those of you that I love know who you are. May God bless you.” She was 46 years old.
Musician Donny Hathaway was 33 when he plunged to his death from his 15th floor hotel room in New York City in 1979. Incredibly talented, Hathaway was known not only for his skills as a musician and as a writer, but also his incredibly smooth sound both as a solo artist and as a duet artist.
Hathaway suffered from severe depressive bouts at the height of his career. After seeking professional treatment, Hathaway was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. Psychiatrists prescribed a very strong medication to help control the symptoms. However, Hathaway’s wife, Eulaulah, said as Hathaway got busier and more popular, he became less diligent about taking the medication.
Hathaway’s mental instability during the 1970s created havoc in his personal life and resulted in several hospitalizations. At the time of his death, Hathaway was in the recording studio with his frequent duet partner, Roberta Flack. They were doing a follow-up album of duets after the release of the widely-popular “The Closer I Get to You.”
However, Hathaway’s behavior both in the studio and outside the studio was increasingly erratic. The day Hathaway died, he had become paranoid and delusional, claiming that white people were trying to kill him and had hooked his brain up to a machine to steal both his sound and his music. The record producers decided to stop the recording session and send everybody home. Within hours, Hathaway lay dead on the sidewalk outside his hotel.
Mental illness and suicide show no partiality. We must, as African-Americans, seek professional help if we need it and not be afraid of what other people might say or think. Our lives are at stake and the lives of our community are at stake. Each of them is valuable and worth saving.
But when suicide hits our families, we should not be afraid to say so, so we can finally break down these walls to keep us from getting the help we need.
If you’d like to learn about cremation services in Warrensville Heights, OH, our compassionate and experienced team at E. F. Boyd & Son Funeral Home is here to help. You can visit us at our funeral home at 25900 Emery Road, Warrensville Heights, OH, or you can call us today at (216) 831-7906.