Suicide in the midst of Black Boy Joy

Photo Credit: Ngozi Kim

Photo Credit: Ngozi Kim

September is Suicide Prevention Month and Redefine Enough is stepping outside the usual realm of interviewing women of color. Instead, we're sharing stories of people of color... women and men. This is particularly important when suicide continues to be mislabeled and diminished as a "white thing." But suicide does not care about race or gender. It can affect anyone.

Meet Tro'juan Henderson, a writer and Lyft Community Associate in Dallas, TX. Some of you may be familiar with him after his video about sexual assault went viral on social media. After taking a quick glance of his social media, you'll find tons of jokes, a few puppy pictures, and photos of him smiling from ear to ear. But if you search deep enough, you'll find glimpses into his life when he struggled with self doubt and suicidal thoughts.  We sat down for an interview about his experience with suicide and explored how we can begin shifting the narrative to better prevent suicide.

How old were you when you had suicidal thoughts?

·About 15 or 16. There were issues at school with bullying and me being a loner. My biggest problems weren’t at school. It was household problems like physical and mental abuse that trickled into school.

When did you realize you were having suicidal thoughts?

I never really acknowledged it. I knew about it. Well, I did acknowledge it but I didn’t understand it. But I was listening to a song, Biggie's “Suicidal Thoughts" and it felt like someone understood what was going through my mind. 

 

"Suicidal Thoughts" x Notorious B.I.G.

"I can't believe suicide's on my f***ing mind, I wanna leave
I swear to God I feel like death is f***ing calling me
Naw you wouldn't understand..."

Who were you able to talk to during that time?

I didn’t tell my family. It was considered stupid. They grew up in a heavy Christian household and my family was like… “you just keep pushing.” I’ve heard it before that suicide is stupid and that life doesn’t get that hard to kill yourself. I remember sitting in my cousin's funeral, who died by suicide, and people saying, “This a damn shame. It don’t get that bad."

I kept it to myself because all they would say was “pray it away.” Subconsciously, I think it made me dismissive to other people’s concerns at the time. Looking back, I think I swept it under the rug.

Photo Credit Ngozi Kim

Photo Credit Ngozi Kim

Tro'juan left his home at 18 but still found himself navigating unhealthy relationships and dealing with the trauma from his childhood. Despite leaving a toxic environment, his suicidal thoughts failed to subside.  In his early 20's, he made his second suicide attempt and was found by a friend.

How did your friend respond to your suicide attempt?


I made it seem like I accidentally took too much medicine on an empty stomach and that's why I had gotten extremely sick. He sensed something was there but he didn’t push it.

Plus, I had already refused his attempts to take me to the ER because I knew they'd try to assess me and keep me overnight. I didn't want to deal with that.

What support did you need in that moment?

I wanted someone to hear me out and say “I realize it’s a lot going on and I’m here for you.”  I wish people realized that it’s not a pray away thing or momentary thing. It’s a really serious issue and it hits closer to home than you know.

Be more mindful when you say, “Think about the people around you.” I think you can emphasize “I love you. I’m here for you” but don’t place so much attention on everyone else that you forget to be concerned with them.

What helps you cope with suicidal thoughts?

Music is heavy with me. When I'm battling suicidal thoughts of depression...first thing I do is be mindful of the music I take in. That can be the thing that pushes me over the edge or pulls me back in. I try to stay out of dark solitary places that leave me with my thoughts...

What are ways that people can prevent suicide?

Honestly, asking those questions such as, "How can I support you in this time of need?" and being open to do that. Following up by checking in on them, as well as allowing that open space for dialogue for people to voice their troubles in a way that doesn't make them seem like a burden/chore, or as if they're just too much. Language is very important.

What would you say to someone dealing with suicidal thoughts right now?

Your life is necessary and if I can be of any assistance… I will be. But mostly, I can listen and be there.

Tro'juan's story is not an isolated one. Too many people think they're the only ones dealing with suicidal thoughts... fearful of the judgment and criticism they may receive from friends and family. 

But if you feel like he did, please consider these options...

Suicide Prevention Lifeline 800 273 TALK (8255)

Online Chat Option: Lifeline Crisis Chat

Crisis Text Line: Text HOME to 741 741

My3app: Free app