With over 46 million Americans experiencing mental illness in any given year, it is something which directly or indirectly affects us all.
Yet, black women, in particular, often suffer in silence because of shame, stigma or frankly, lack of resources or time to take care of themselves. That black woman muttering to herself on a street corner may very well be in as much psychic pain as a black woman in the C-suite, but black women who seem to have it all sometimes buy into the myth that the woman with the cart has a legitimate reason to be sad, while they do not.
On what would have been her 50th birthday, we pay homage to one such shining light dimmed too soon, Titi Branch.
Titi, along with younger sister Miko Branch, is a founder and creator of Miss Jessie’s Hair Care, pioneers in the now explosive natural hair care movement.
Miko shares with us the incredible inner and outer beauty of her “smart,” “protective,” “fearless,” and “kind” sibling, who reportedly died by suicide in 2014. Miko, like so many others, knows firsthand the pain of loving and losing someone dearly beloved to depression and is using her platform not only to remember her brilliant sister Miko but to bust myths about mental health.
“Mental illness is kind of like any other disease in that it’s a disease,” says Miko, who concedes that she had to face a steep learning curve when dealing with Titi’s depression, initially being baffled that someone who “had so much going on” could be seeing the world in shades of gray.
Her advice in hindsight? Provide a safe space for vulnerability and even weakness, the antithesis of how many of us were raised.
“Be patient and allow that person who is experiencing difficulty to feel vulnerable to feel like they can come to you and talk,” says Miko. “I believe that if everyone felt like they had a safe space to talk, many lives could be saved. The shame of you knowing I’m not as strong as you think I am. The shame of I might have done something wrong and I don’t know how to work through it. The shame of not having the right reactions to moments where I see everyone else having these kinds of reactions.”
Miko now recognizes that this myth of the strong black woman is damaging to us all.
“I always wanted any one of us to be able to overcome [depression] and push through it. But now, I realize it doesn’t happen that way. Frankly, I think we all need to understand that we’re not all superwomen.”
See her interview above.
If you are thinking about harming yourself, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or the Suicide Crisis Line at 1-800-784-2433; help is available 24 hours a day.