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.–

Mental Health Awareness Month spotlights growing concerns, solutions

Terrie Williams

Terrie Williams, author, mental health advocate and publicist champions the cause of those who suffer from mental health diagnoses and encourages blacks to stop hiding and seek help. She is author of the book “Black Pain: It Just Looks Like We’re Not Hurting,” which deals with mental health in the black community and the stigma associated with dealing with mental illness.

By Carmen Glover

Mental health continues to be an area of profound concern globally because mental health diagnoses continue to be shrouded in secrecy, and for some, profound shame.  Interestingly, some individuals find it much easier to admit that they are HIV positive, because of the support that society provides through housing and financial aid, rather than acknowledge that they struggle with a mental health diagnosis.

Terrie Williams, mental health advocate, author and  public relations specialist

Terrie Williams, mental health advocate, author and public relations specialist

Although both HIV and mental heath diagnoses are protected by health shield laws, they can both be lethal if left untreated. When troubled rapper DMX appeared on “Iyanla Fix My Life,” the episode burned up social media because of the spectacle he made of himself. But some viewers were shrewd enough to recognize that his bizarre behavior was fueled by more than drug addiction. He displayed evidence of a co-occurring disorder, which was supported by revelations that he suffers from mental illness.


Across the USA as carnage explodes in the form of mass murders and unprovoked attacks, mental health is often found to be the underlying trigger. Terrie Williams, who earned a master’s degree in sociology from Columbia University and stumbled into public relations as a career while caring for the late Miles Davis, went on to count Eddie Murphy, Nia Long and Essence Magazine among her boldfaced clientele. She wrote one of the most enduring books on the public relations industry, “The Personal Touch,” which some communications expert view as “the PR Bible.”


But, speaking frankly at last year’s regional NABJ media conference at the Associated Press headquarters, Williams described tackling mental illness at the pinnacle of her very public career.

“I had a nervous breakdown several years ago and I’m on anti-depressants. For white people, therapy is a badge of honor and they will tell you, unasked, what anti-depressants they are on but blacks are afraid to face their struggles,” she said, to shouts of “Amen.” Pausing and glancing around the room, she smiled, then said “Everyone is walking the fine line of crazy. Face the truth of who you are: the good and the crazy as hell side. Be kind to everyone you meet because you never know what that person’s journey is.”


She cautioned the journalists listening to her raptly to take care of themselves. “Choose your friends and colleagues wisely because people’s spirits are transferable,” she said, to appreciative nods. “Release past hurts and learn to forgive, especially yourself. We are absolutely nothing without our emotional and physical health,” she added, before urging “Get help. Therapy is the gift that keeps on giving.”

Somehow, when someone who lives in the public eye like Williams does, shares a personal story, it resonates. If you have been feeling as if something is not quite right with you or a loved one, get help. Mental illness, at its most destructive, leads to suicide, feelings of hopelessness and  uncontrolled rage  If you are a loved one experience any of the signs of depression, seek help. As Williams puts it “Be able to ask for help when you are the strong one that everyone goes to for help and give yourself permission to say no.”

October is Mental Health Awareness Month. Mental Health Awareness Week is being observed  from October 5 to October 11. October 9 is National Depression Screening Day and October 10 is World Mental Health Day. –