The Great Depression – The Death of the African Child

By Tlotliso May

Depression has become a newsworthy issue. I have noticed, with time, that a lot of people have started talking about depression, and how a lot of young people are dying when they could easily get help. I have, sadly, at the same time noticed that there is an exponential rise in the suicide attempts, and sadly a lot of the said attempts are successful. In this opinion piece, I am going to discuss the two types of suicides and I will, lastly, enter a discourse on how depression has affected the black community and how black parents – admit it or not, have become catalysts for depression and why depression stays winning in claiming the lives of black kids!

I discussed with two friends last year, at the height of my depression, how most black kids who attempt suicide do not have an actual ideation of dying, but attempt suicide with hopes that their parents will realise how they are having a difficulty. There are basically two outcomes for suicide i.e. to make parents aware of the hardship that one has endured, often after years of being dismissed when you attempt to register a concern. The purpose of this kind of suicide is a cry for help, the kind of help that barely comes and is often offered a little too late. The second type of suicide is one that seems to be very prevalent in black communities and lately is largely observed in our institutions of higher learning where black students are seen to be on a suicide spree – usually to no fault of their own, this is an intentional type of suicide that most people dub as forwardness while to a certain extent I see bravery in ending one’s  misery after nights of having to turn your pillow to the other side because of the tears that one cries in vain because in black communities suicide barely comes, because of the culture that black parents have of crying over spilled milk – when the milk was shame, ignored and told how it does not compare to other brands of milk.

I wrote a while ago that “Depression thou art a cunning bitch” and I still stand by those words because depression in conquering the black communities seems to manipulate the way that we think and has created a space for itself in our communities. I believe depression stays winning in our communities because of two not-so-distinctive reasons i.e. the sheer ignorance displayed by black communities and the fact that black parents do not want to accept that even at our age we can be depressed. Black parents are always the last to find out that their child was depressed because our parents and the communities we live in dare tell us to stop acting white when we are found to be suffering from depression.

I am unfortunate to have felt the effect of a parent denying that their child an opportunity to feel because when last year needed, it ended on a very sad note for me after I finally admitted to my parents that for almost the past three years I have been harbouring depression and lately suicidal thoughts. I expected understanding and love from both my parents but to my surprise only my mother understood and my father instead suggested that I get prayed for, despite having asked that he invests in therapy. I later discovered that most of my fellow black people do not believe that depression exists and they go as far as condemning children  with depression symptoms as brats and accuse them of “Acting white” this is even worse if you’re a black man because we have been taught to distance ourselves from our emotions as far as possible.

Depression has plagued African families for a very long time and the increasing suicide rates call for urgent action. African parents need to wake up to the reality that the black child is dying in silence…

Featured Image Source: HSE

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