Wednesday evening (January 29th) I received a text message from a close college friend asking me how BGS was doing. I responded with the usual message saying it was going well, but not where I wanted it to be. She responded with an energetic,” You need to get it up and running!” From a few more messages exchanged it came out that what made her think about BGS and reach out to me was the passing of a young black man she vaguely knew from New York City scene. She indicated this young male had committed suicide by jumping from a parking deck in North Carolina and she thought (like many) that maybe increased awareness in regards to mental health and mental illness in the African American community could prevent such tragic instances as this.
Following this conversation I looked more into the details pertaining to the passing of the young man she was speaking of. Through a few quick Google searches I was able to find out the young man was Yusuf Neville, 28 year old Hampton alum and native of Durham, North Carolina set to be married later this year. The search yielded that from the likes of Necole Bitchie to Terrence J celebrities and friends of Yusuf took to social media to express their sadness in the loss of a friend. From everything I’ve read it appears everyone was taken aback and completely surprised by the untimely passing of Yusuf.
Although this tragic instance has a personal and direct forceful impact upon Yusuf’s family and friends his passing is indicative of a larger issue. Yusuf is 1 of close to 2,000 young African American males who will lose their lives this year to suicide (now the third leading cause of death among young African American males). So many are shocked and yes suicide is shocking, but the only way for the African American community to not continue to suffer such loses as Yusuf Neville, Lee Thompson Young, Junior Seau and so many more is to break down and through the stigmas associated with mental health and illness and bring awareness to this taboo topic. Yes it’s hard to talk about, new to talk about, and we don’t have many people who look like us (African Americans) to educate us, but it is beyond imperative for us to make it a priority to educate ourselves, our youth, our educators, our friends, our families on mental health and mental illness so instead of friends and loved ones reading ominous text messages or taking to the social media airways following an incident that we are getting in front of this.
From all account Yusuf Neville touched many people, led a full live from marathons to an active member of his fraternity (Kappa Alpha Psi), but this handsome man that appeared to have it all was suffering. He didn’t know where seek help or maybe didn’t feel comfortable asking for help and the darkness of this burden overtook him.
Our prayers and condolences go out to Yusuf Neville’s fiancé, family and friends. May they find comfort in remembering the healthy full of life individual that has made an impact on so many. To the black community, clearly no one is going to make it a priority to ensure the prosperity and healthiness of our people, the responsibility ultimately falls upon us and us alone. Please, please, please let this be the very last straw and give mental health and mental illness the attention it deserves to stop the suffering of so many of our own.