On Tuesday, February 9, the Southern University and A&M College Counseling Center partnered with the Black Mental Health Program, Kappa Alpha Psi, and book author Kenyon Glover in hosting a mental health awareness event. They specifically hope to bring attention and awareness to the mental illness experienced within the African American community. Directed by Dr. ValaRay Irving, Director of Southern University’s Counseling Center, and Mr. Carl Watson, the Vice-Chancellor of Student Affairs at Southern University, the event came with the intent on acknowledging mental illness in a time where it is most needed. Mental health is one of the leading causes of death throughout society and is ostracized in everyday discussions.
Dr. Irving brought to light how mental illness heavily affects the African American community. She begins to acknowledge the demographic of African Americans within the population of America. Dr. Irving states, “We represent over 13.4% of the population, and that is over 60% of people reporting a mental illness in the past year.” As she continues, Dr. Irving recognizes the prevalence of how mental illness leads to depression and suicide among the African American community due to isolation, trauma, and violence. This is stated as “Depression is the primary reason we see that some people will consider suicide, and it happens every 12 minutes.”
Dr. Irving presented a study by race and gender among the African American community and other demographics such as Indian, Caucasian, Hispanic, and Asian Americans. This study shows a similar difference in the suicide rate of all races between women and men. The rate of suicide among black women and men is 2.9% to 12.0%. Not only was the African American rate seen as so, but other demographics were shown to have a significant doubling in the suicide rate between men and women as well.
The guest speaker of the night was Kenyon Glover, a well-known film actor, producer, book author, and former NBA basketball player. Born and raised in Monroe, Louisiana, Glover is the oldest of three siblings and is the author of his latest book, which was published on October 20 of last year. It is entitled, “The Rebirth & Resurrection of a New Man,” and entails Glover’s experiences with depression and suicidal thoughts throughout his life and how he overcame them.
Coming out of Neville High School, Glover attended the University of Massachusetts, then transferred to the University of Maine. He played basketball in England, which furthered his placement into the NBA with a chance to play with the Milwaukee Bucks. Around this time, he was sentenced to 15 years in prison for what Glover says is “… a charge he didn’t commit.” It was placed on his shoulders from a close relative of his, but after 3 months of thorough investigation, the charges were dropped from Glover, and he proceeded with his everyday life as an NBA star.
Shortly after his return, Glover suffered a brutal knee injury and was deemed unable to continue his dream to play in the NBA. This is when Glover’s states his experience with depression and suicide began. Due to what Glover desctribed as crushed dream, he develops a slight drinking habit and tried to commit suicide three different times, ultimately failing in each act. Glover exclaims, “2006 to 2020, I’ve been dealing with suicidal thoughts every, single, day.” During these 14 years, Glover defines himself as a lost soul, which in his understanding means being not knowing his place in the world, as well as being unconnected to God.
In attempts of overcoming these circumstances, Glover goes onto therapy and writes his thoughts in a journal. Glover recognized his journal entries could give hope to others who deal with depression and suicidal thoughts and went ahead to evolve his experience into a book. After the release of his book, Glover began to receive positive feedback from those who are equally affected by this common illness. Glover feels like it is his duty to give others hope within themselves when it comes to this topic.
In an interview with the author, when asked about his opinion of mental health within black men, he says, “As black men, we tend to be judged more harshly than any other race.” Through his book and the overall purpose of the event, Southern University wants to allow African American males to see that there is hope for overcoming this issue.
Dr. Walter gave his thoughts on the topic as well, noting that it is important for “[young black men] to begin to think through it and know that they can get beyond any kind of issues they might be having.” Southern University is no stranger in addressing the issue of mental health within not only African American males, but of this issue and who it pertains to overall. Currently, they are in high hopes of hosting another event compared to this one with an even better turnout in an attempt to contribute to a decrease in stigma and an increase in healing regarding mental health issues.