“Ky, please pray, your cousin is missing and has not been home since Wednesday.”
I received this text as I was leaving a talk at the Schomburg on a Thursday night. Let’s just say I immediately lost my appetite and a sense of worry overwhelmed me. Where was he? I spent the rest of the night praying before falling asleep. I knew he didn’t have any friends so if he was missing something probably happened to him. I thought the worst, as we all do in times of turmoil. My mind went over all of the times I could’ve told him I loved him or been there for him and yet I chose not to. Life is so short and within a blink of an eye, your whole existence could change. I imagined life without him for a split second and couldn’t bare it. He needed to come home.
The next morning I received a text from my mother saying my cousin came home in the middle of the night. Thank you, Jesus. A sense of relief came over me until I questioned his whereabouts for the last couple of days. Apparently, he was riding the trains back and forth. Not the same train, different trains. I am not surprised by this revelation but I am worried. His condition is seemingly getting worse.
A couple of weeks back I discovered this was a past time of his. I saw him on Hoyt street. I didn’t want to say anything to him, I just followed him. I watched from a distance as he sat on the bench and got up as the 3-train pulled into the station. He listened to his music, in his own zone until our stop approached. I thought he would get off the train but he didn’t. He continued onwards towards New Lotts Avenue. That night he came home 2-hours after me. I talked to him and told him how dangerous that part of Brooklyn is. I told him he needs to stop doing whatever it is that he’s doing but he took my worry as a joke. He did not listen to me. My mind began to wonder, What is he doing on these trains? Is he falling asleep? Is he alert? Is he talking to others? Is he quiet?
Back in December, the decision to not indict the officer who put Eric Garner in a chokehold, ultimately leading to his untimely death plagued the TV screens. This would also be the day when my cousin would have his first psychotic break. He watched the story repeatedly on his television. That night he took his walk which he normally takes every evening. Around midnight he called his mother in a state of paranoia afraid that the cops would get him. My aunt urged him to come home but he continued his rant in fear of the cops and of death. He came home a few hours later looking out the windows in a paranoid state. He then told his mother to call the doctors. These were not just any doctors, but people that we’ve been working with for months to help him. They urged us to call them when my cousin was ready to enter a safe house of some sort. He would have his own room and they would help him get back on track mentally. They interviewed the whole family on numerous occasions trying to get information on my cousin’s state of mind. I provided them with valuable observations because I knew he needed help for years now. When my aunt made the call, she could not get through to them so she resorted to 911. When the cops came, my cousin reacted erratically. His screams could be heard throughout the apartment complex as they dragged him to the hospital. I chose not to go to the hospital because I did not want to see him in that state. My mother, like the saint that she is tried to go every single day after work so he wouldn’t be alone and she prayed or him. After a month, he promised he was well; he would cooperate with the terms of dismissal, which meant attending regular meetings and taking medication consistently. He was released a few days after the New Year. Immediately, after his dismissal, I noticed he was more calm but uncooperative. He did not want to attend his meetings nor take his medication. He retreated in his room for days on end and was very subdued.
My cousin’s condition is progressively getting worse and I fear the worst. I am up late at night typing this because it’s the only way I can vent. This conversation of mental health is so important to have. I was so proud of the writers of Empire who carved out a way to add this issue, plaguing many families around the world to their episodes.
Historically, African Americans are very hushed when it comes to mental health issues. When we want to see a therapist, we are told to talk to Jesus which is awesome and I love talking to Jesus, but sometimes you really just need to talk to a therapist. I’ve been to the therapist two times in my life. I needed to talk things out, and although I credit Jesus Christ for my deliverance, my first therapist (not so much my second one) was so necessary. She listened to me. She allowed me to vent. Hearing my stories in full and listening to all the foolish mistakes I made gave me just enough power to leave a toxic relationship and to rebuild my self-esteem. I thank God for all the work he’s done for me but now my cousin needs help. He’s stubborn. He doesn’t think he’s suffering. He doesn’t want to seek help. He doesn’t want to talk to anyone, he just wants to be alone. He’s moody and you don’t know who you are going to get; is he going to be on edge or normal? My aunt is heartbroken, but in all honesty, I believe we will get through this obstacle. We have to talk about it so we can help one another. I don’t want to be silenced any longer. Mental health issue is plaguing many men and women. The onset to mental health issues happens within the first 3-decades of your life. This is also a pivotal time for the development of our brains. Our minds are very fragile and I hope we all take the time to thank God for having a sound mind because not everyone can say the same.
Here is a list of resources:
If you are a New York City resident in need of emotional support for yourself or someone else, please call LifeNet at 1-800-LIFENET 1-800-543-3638.
Help is available for anyone in New York State who is struggling with substance abuse or gambling addiction by calling 1-877-8HOPE-NY 1-877-846-7369.
If you or someone you know is experiencing bullying in a New York City public school, please contact the BRAVEline Monday through Friday 2:30 pm-9:30 pm by calling 1-212-709-3222, texting BRAVE to 43961 or through chat.
NYC Teen is New York City’s SMS Text Crisis Counseling hotline for youth aged 14-18 years old. Youth can text 65173 to reach the NYC Teen Crisis Counseling Service Monday through Friday 2:30 pm through 9:30 pm and Saturdays and Sundays 1 pm through 9 pm.
Disaster Distress Helpline
Help is available for people in need of emotional support after a disaster by calling 1-800-985-5990 or texting “TalkWithUs” to 66746.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
If you are thinking about suicide or are concerned for someone in crisis outside of New York City, please call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or click here to chat with a counselor.
Veterans Crisis Line
Confidential support is available to veterans and their families by calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255) and pressing option 1. Help is also available by chatting online or texting “Get Help Now” to 838255.