Good mental health is important to achieving optimum 2015 lifestyles

Publicist, Author and Mental Health Advocate Terrie Williams.

Publicist, Author and Mental Health Advocate Terrie Williams.

By Carmen Glover

There is nothing as euphoric as the first light of a new year to make plans for improving in the areas of life in which we all fell short during the previous year. For 2015, it is natural for resolutions to be made, plans to be developed and promises devised, all in the name of ensuring a successful year.

Yet, while exercise regimens are established, gym memberships soar and resumes are freshened up, scant attention is typically paid to promoting optimum mental health. This can be a huge mistake that can shatter dreams, derail well-laid plans and cost lives. After all, without optimum emotional and mental well-being, it is difficult to navigate life’s challenges and stressors successfully.


American Idol winner Fantasia Barrino attempted to commit suicide in August 2010. Appearing on ABC News two weeks after being hospitalized she said : “I just wanted to get away f rom the noise.”

In the African-American community especially, mental health is not dealt with as part of preventive medical wellness checks. It’s not considered to be a routine part of a yearly physical and that oversight can lead to devastating results, most often, untreated mental illness resulting in suicides. For instance in August 2010, American Idol winner Fantasia Barrino tried to take her own life by overdosing on pills. After her hospitalization, she said of her suicide attempt:

“I just wanted to get away from the noise.” But Barrino is not alone, Don Cornelius, the genius who created Soul Train, shot himself to death with a firearm. Music executive with Violator Records Chris Lighty, Donny Hathaway and Phyllis Hyman were admired musical talents who committed suicide. Hathaway struggled with schizophrenia while Hyman was depressed and had bi-polar disorder. Hyman left a note stating “I’m tired. I’m tired.” Titi Branch, co-founder of Miss Jessie’s line of natural hair products took her own life in December 2014.

don cornelius shot himself to death.

Soul Train creator Don Cornelius shot himself to death.

The stigma that is associated with mental health challenges and the fear of being ostracized professionally and socially often causes African-Americans to justify longstanding failures to obtain routine mental health assessments and follow-up diligently with treatment if a diagnosis is made. One significant exception to that approach is media personality, mental health advocate and author Terrie Williams.

Williams received undergraduate and master’s degrees in social work from Columbia University in New York City. She worked in the social service field for years, where she ultimately met and treated musician Myles Davis, who encouraged her to purse a career in public relations. Williams launched her public relations agency, The Terrie Williams Agency and attracted an impressive client list that included Essence Communications and actors Eddie Murphy and Nia Long. Williams went on to write the public relations Bible: “The Personal Touch.” I met Williams in 1999 when I served as the editor for the business and professional magazine “The Network Journal,” based in lower Manhattan.

Phyllis Hyman commited suicide in 1995 leaving behind  note which said: "i'm tired. I'm tired."

Phyllis Hyman committed suicide in 1995 leaving behind note which said: “I’m tired. I’m tired.”

I’ve seen Williams over the years at different events but I was puzzled when she  retreated from the spotlight.  While attending a regional conference for the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) at the Associated Press (AP) headquarters in New York in October 2013, it was eye-opening to listen as Williams spoke passionately about the issue of mental health in the African-American community and her experience with the disease.

“I had a nervous breakdown,” Williams said candidly before urging journalists at the conference to “take time to love and care for yourselves.” She explained the fear that often consume African-Americans when they are confronted with mental health issues but she explained the importance of seeking help.


Symptoms of Depression, the main indicator that someone is in danger of committing suicide.

One of the myths of mental health awareness and treatment in the African-American society is the belief that seeking treatment means that the individual is “crazy.” There is nothing crazy about seeking help when it is needed. People from all walks of life experience a myriad of struggles, which sometimes include varying degrees of depression, which often leads to suicide.

It is prudent to seek preventive care before signs of discontent morph into symptoms of depression, which, if left untreated can deteriorate into severe or major depression that can lead to suicide.


The Suicide Prevention Hotline is an easily accessible resource if you feel overwhelmed and have suicidal ideation.

As the new year gets underway, one of the best things we can do for ourselves and loved ones is to be vigilant of mood swings and changes in routines so that issues that could lead to mental health illness are addressed before they are exacerbated. If necessary, make that important wellness call to 911 so that those who are experiencing crisis can get help before it is too late. It is unfortunate that as a community, African-Americans have lost many talented individuals whose battles with mental illness overwhelmed their lives.

Yet, the new year offers an opportunity for all of us to be more observant and aware so that preventive care is included in all resolutions and goal setting activities. That is the only way for 2015 to deliver optimum lifestyles for more people than was achieved in previous years.–

Groups to highlight suicide prevention on Sept 28 in Washington, DC, walk

Participants walk to prevent suicide.

Participants walk to prevent suicide at a previous event.

(WASHINGTON, DC – SEPT. 25, 2013) – The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs will speak about the significance of suicide prevention at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s (AFSP) Out of the Darkness Community Walk on Sept. 28 in Washington, DC. Suicide has become an increasingly prevalent issue among service members and veterans account for 20 percent of suicide deaths in the United States.

“Veteran Affairs stands proudly alongside all the brave friends and family members walking to honor the memories of loved ones lost to suicide,” said Dr. Janet Kemp, the Veteran Affairs’ national director for suicide prevention and community engagement. “Community events like the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s (ASFP) Out of the Darkness Walk shine a light on suicide prevention. It’s up to all of us to understand the warning signs of suicide, and to speak up if we’re concerned about a loved one. Talking about it matters,” she said.

More than 1,000 Washingtonians and supporters from other states are expected to meet at Constitution Gardens and walk past the city’s major monuments to promote awareness about mental disorders and suicide prevention, as well as raise vital funds for scientific research and education programs. Many of the attendees have lost family members or friends to suicide and will wear different colored beads around their necks to commemorate their loved ones.

Walk participant and AFSP volunteer Niki Taylor will wear purple beads in honor of a close friend who committed suicide not long after she had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. As part of her fundraising efforts and to honor her friend, Taylor recently embarked on a five-day journey to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro – the highest mountain in Africa. Taylor has raised nearly $4,000 to benefit AFSP and has dedicated herself to increasing awareness about mental illness, which can sometimes contribute to suicide.

“It’s time we reduce the stigma associated with suicide and underlying mental disorders like bipolar disease,” said Taylor. “We need to let people know that treatment is available, there is hope.” According to AFSP, close to 700,000 people make a suicide attempt requiring medical care and more than 38,000 die by suicide in the U.S. every year.

“Despite the troubling statistics, an important goal of the walk is to stress that suicide is 100 percent preventable,” said Robert Gebbia, executive director for AFSP. “We know that the best way to prevent suicide is through early recognition and treatment of the mental disorders that can contribute to suicide, such as depression, bipolar illness, alcohol and substance abuse,” he said. “The walk is about taking a step toward reducing the stigma surrounding these disorders and bringing hope to those who have been affected by suicide.”

Taylor and Dr. Kemp will join AFSP National Capital Area Chapter Chair Steve Iselin, Sergeant First Class Jennifer Powers, Rob Ballister, naval officer and cancer survivor and AFSP National Capital Area Chapter Chair-Elect Vicki Johnson, in formally addressing attendees during the event. All of the speakers will be available for interviews on-site.

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is the leading national not-for-profit organization exclusively dedicated to understanding and preventing suicide through research, education and advocacy as well as to reaching out to people with mental disorders and those impacted by suicide. For more information please visit