‘Are You Ok’? Even ‘strong’ people need a break, how to judge mental health needs

By Libby Hendren

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Miss USA Cheslie Kryst is one of several high-profile people who have taken their own life recently.

Actress Regina King’s son Ian Alexander Jr. committed suicide on his 26th birthday earlier this month. A mayor in Maryland, Kevin Ward, who was beloved in his community took his life as well.

Mental health advocate Natasha Pierre says there’s an expectation in the Black community to be strong, and the problem with the term “strong Black woman” is that it places people outside a circle where they can receive empathy and compassion.

She says just because you think your friend is built to take on challenges, remember everyone needs a moment of rest.

Pierre says, start by asking, “How can I sup- port the people in my life today? Recognizing that there are different nuances for each per- son’s experience that may be different from my own so how can I extend empathy?”

She suggests doing these three things:

Be present to hear them and assess their risk.

Then, be a friend, what would you want to hear? Don’t be a bully to a person who trusts you.

She also recommends taking a mental health first aid course, so you know what to look for. “One of the things is, I wear this green rib- bon which green is the color of mental health and signifies that I’m a safe person. You know I share openly that my social media direct messages are always open for everything mental health and substance abuse, and it’s by sit- ting with people. Many people are uncomfortable with conversations around mental health substance use and it’s really because they’re unprepared,” Pierre said.

Write down this phone number for the National Suicide Prevention Life- line. It’s 1-800-273-8255 or you can text “home” to 741-741.

You can also check out Black Mental Health and NAMI for resources.