Why I do what I do

Why I do what I do:

We were asked a brilliant question at pre departure orientation this week:”Why do you do what you do?” Other fulbright scholars presented great answers about their projects in all kinds of fields of study, but it took me a little longer to process.

I realized that I didn’t quite provide my full truth in my fulbright application. In my personal statement I wrote how I was interested in suicidality after serving as a crisis consultant in college. This is semi-true. I was and still am fascinated about the mental health and well being of my callers, and wanted to know what it was that put each caller at their breaking point.

However, my true reason is much more personal. When I was 19, a long time friend ,Brian died by suicide, and my own mental health had never been the same. He was an exceptional athlete, a warm, funny and kind African American man. As a teenager, Brian’s voice and advice always resonated with me.

However, I looked around and felt that my coach had very little if any empathy for our rival school’s teammate. And those in my communities(athletic black and/or christian) grieved for a few days, but then went back to their normal points of view, “we don’t need a therapist, that’s for white people” “I’m too strong for a therapist” and even “Jesus is my psychiatrist”.

Brian’s voice was fading.

I was hurt on Brian’s behalf, and quickly joined a lab investigating suicidality. However, I was disappointed when I realized that-like many labs-our lab focused on the demographics of college freshman:white, traditional, and female.

I felt like Brian’s voice wasn’t heard in our studies, so I made it happen myself.

My senior year I worked on a project examining suicidality and disordered eating in college athletes. For grad school, I’ll be focusing on suicidality among African Americans and other minority populations. Upon hearing a statement from a MIT scholar when I told him about my research: “Suicide? Tell your lab the answer is to know Christ”, I will be studying suicidality in the Christian community in Nigeria.

I do what I do so that all groups are represented in the fight to end suicide and poor mental health. I do what I do because all individuals deserve to lead a normal and stable life, free from stigma. I do what I do so my dear friend Brian can have a voice.

12 thoughts on “Why I do what I do

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  1. If I could love this, I would!!! This was amazing, very well said, and you’re completely right! representation is very very important even it comes to destigmatizing mental/emotional issues. I am sorry for your loss; I think even in you using Brian’s passing as a motivation to do your work, his legacy lives on. Thank you for sharing this.

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  2. This is a very touching post. I am sorry that you lost someone to suicide so young. Losing someone to suicide is actually one of the hardest deaths to process, because the memories of that person can become tainted by the apparent choice they made (which is not really a choice, because the brain is diseased). According to the American Psychiatric Association, surviving the loss of someone to suicide is akin to surviving a concentration camp experience. It’s great that you are dedicating yourself to researching this topic more, and to give a voice to those that are underrepresented in these studies. I just lost a close family member to suicide 3 weeks ago, and it has been nothing short of devastating to go through. This is the third person I know, that has died by suicide. In addition to the food blog that I have, I also blog about mental health topics. I am bringing my PhD research background into the mix, in the hopes of giving a voice to those with mental illness. Like you, I hope that my research and my experiences will stimulate more dialogue on this topic so that we can ultimately change society’s perceptions of these illnesses, and to hopefully stimulate the medical community to come up with more effective and affordable treatment options.

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  3. I am so sorry about Brian. I am glad you realize that you hurt and have pain just like any other ethnicity. Brian would be so proud that you have not let his voice die. His memory will be remembered by all the work you contribute to this area. Good luck.

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  4. Thank you for sharing.
    I like finding out stories of folks who are passionate about mental health. And as difficult as some of things you have gone thru has been, it’s really amazing that you’ve been able to turn that around for good in your work.

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  5. I’m very sorry to hear about your loss. This story is very touching and much needed. We definitely need better representation and to break the cycle of how we approach suicide & mental health in our communities. Thanks for sharing!

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  6. This was good stuff! Mental health is very important and it’s good that your are passionate about shedding light on this topic. It’s real and there are solutions to help with this issue. It all starts with a conversation!

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  7. I am so glad you do what you do….and what you do couldn’t be more noble or commendable. Suicide is a very heartbreaking ordeal to cope with for any family touched by it. It has affected my life too my best friend lost two of her siblings to suicide and my brother some of his friends. Mental health is such a delicate balance and anyone one of us can be susceptible to it

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  8. This was a moving read. As someone who identifies as a Christian and Nigerian, it’s been difficult to reconcile how both play a role in stigmatizing mental health. Your research is important! And I’m excited to hear about your discoveries.

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  9. Wow! This is a commendable undertaking. I’m rather surprised, but not shocked, that there would be a large enough suicidal population among Christian Nigerians. I’m curious to learn what the underlining root cause could be.

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  10. This was a super touching article. Suicide and mental health is super important topic yet there is still not enough resources and programs to address the issue. I am sorry that you lost someone to suicide, it’s not easy.

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  11. Suicide is specific to no person or group. It has nothing to do with weakness. It just is. We need to be kind to each other and not judge, Thanks for doing the work that you do.

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