“She was someone who had purpose, she was a freedom fighter…the reality is that many of us think of not being on the planet anymore. Don’t be afraid to ask for help,” Williams said.
Read the rest of the interview below:
TOM JOYNER: Okay, let’s put some purpose in this party on a Friday and go Inside Her Story with Jacque Reid.
JACQUE REID: Good morning, Tom, Sybil and Jay. You know, the segment that I’m doing today is really urgent. The death by suicide of 22 year old Morgan State student Karen Washington has many black women concerned about each other in our state of mental health. Karen was a founder of the very successful For Brown Girls organization, which celebrated the beauty of dark skin natural hair while promoting self-love. Thousands of mourning her death including singer and actress Mary J. Blige who tweeted out Rest In Peace to another queen gone too soon. I’m going inside her story with mental health activist, author and legendary publicist Terry Williams. Good morning, Terry.
TERRIE WILLIAMS: Good morning, Jacque.
JACQUE REID: Now you speak out regularly about mental health, particularly as it relates to black women. What have you learned about why Karen Washington took her life?
TERRIE WILLIAMS: Well, first of all I thank Karen for her life and giving us the best, you know, that she could. And what I think is that, you know, there are many times that we, as women, people in general, we have to fight every day to keep it going. And she clearly was someone who had purpose, she was a freedom fighter. And then ultimately, I mean, reportedly there was a great deal of pain she felt with the loss of her mother. And I think that the reality is many of us many of us think about not being on the planet anymore. You know sometimes you go through major challenges and you just don’t think that you can fight it. And I think what we have to do is redefine what strong is. You know, we have to let the tears flow, ask for help, to be unafraid to ask for help, and to honor yourself and the pain, and to name it and to seek counseling. And for many of that that is considered a stigma. But as I said we have to redefine strong. That’s being able to ask for help. You know? And I think …
JACQUE REID: Well, Karen’s death has many black women encouraging each other to check on each other. But how do we know when a fellow sister, or a just a person is actually in trouble? What are we looking for?
TERRIE WILLIAMS: Well, what we’re looking for is, you know, is this person feeling sad over an extended period of time? I think one of the things that, and that’s also, you know, there’s always a blessing in disguise. Did we want her to leave? No. But she is, what a legacy, what a legacy she has left us. And we do need to be reminded that we all wear masks. Every single day, every moment of the day, and we have a different one for every occasion. So I would say that as we move through the world to act as if the person that you are interacting with is just like you going through the fire and pretending all is fine. So that we can always check on someone. You know, we talk about the negative side of sometimes being on email all the time. But I will often just if someone crosses my mind I will just send a note saying think of you.
SYBIL WILKES: And we’ve gotten those emails from you.
JACQUE REID: Just last night, just last night as Terry and I were talking about this segment, she sent me, we were talking about it and in her email, in all caps, how are you?
SYBIL WILKES: How are you? Exactly.
JACQUE REID: You know, so she does check on people, but Terry, let me ask you about this. Because you talk about people seeing mental illness and seeking help for it as weakness. But let’s just talk about what it is because a lot of folks here have mental illness and they think bipolar, they think schizophrenia. Let’s talk about what it is.
TERRIE WILLIAMS: Well, I mean, it could be, very much, it could be prolonged sadness. You know, that it’s difficult to get up in the morning. You have no energy to do anything. It could be a myriad of things, if there were things that you used to do that you don’t do anymore, that’s also a sign of things not necessarily being right in one’s life. If you’re doing something that doesn’t bring you joy over a period of time that’s also something to take a look at. And not feeling that you’re fulfilling your purpose. And having people in your life who are not uplifting and encouraging and supportive. That’s something that’s not healthy. So there are, and then if you find yourself having suicidal thoughts like often, like just not wanting to be here, that’s a sign that you need to talk to someone. I mean the reality is, Jacque, all of us have, at least all of – what’s the word I’m searching for? All of us have inherited the unresolved pain, wounds, trauma and scars of our parents. It’s not a good thing or a bad thing, it is life, it is what is. And the challenge is when we don’t get help for those things that are unspoken, I spoke with someone recently who is – oh, are we still on?
TOM JOYNER: Oh, yeah, oh, yeah.
TERRIE WILLIAMS: Just that this young lady was impregnated by her father. She … that they knew it was incest because certain things happen when in fact there is incest, and long story short is what happened is that her father ended up … he took his own life because he realized the severity of what he had done. And I’m saying horrible things happen to people when we don’t have an outlet to talk about what ails us. We’ve got to talk to people, and go to a professional. It is a gift that keeps on giving to get to see a therapist. It is a gift.
SYBIL WILKES: Yeah, check on each other too.
JACQUE REID: Well, Terry, thank you for checking on me all the time. I appreciate it.
SYBIL WILKES: Yeah, we appreciate it.
TERRIE WILLIAMS: I love you, you’re necessary, we’re necessary, we just got to lift each other up.
TOM JOYNER: Yeah.
JACQUE REID: Yeah. Thank you. It’s a tragedy, but like she said …
SYBIL WILKES: Terry, how you doing?
JACQUE REID: Yeah, really?
TERRIE WILLIAMS: (Laugh) I’m just taking one day at a time. Today’s a good one.
JACQUE REID: I know. We love you.
TOM JOYNER: All right. All right, Terrie.
JACQUE REID: Thank you, Terrie.
TERRIE WILLIAMS: Okay. Take care, thanks you all.
JACQUE REID: All right.
TOM JOYNER: All right, Jacque.
JACQUE REID: All right, you guys enjoy your weekend, and check on each other.
SYBIL WILKES: Exactly.
TOM JOYNER: Okay.