Category Archives: The Mental Health Files

When A Loved One Commits Suicide [The Mental Health Files]

by Guest Contributor Renina, originally published at New Model Minority

“When Too Blue,” aroncb

It has taken me nearly a year to deal with the suicide of my play little brother Matteo.

I felt like shit when I first learned the news, nearly a year ago. In fact, I just laid on the floor and cried. When I saw that I had a phone call from a 510 number late on a Sunday night, I knew something was wrong; no one calls me from home that late unless something is wrong.

The day after I learned he passed, I still taught my class, but I mentioned to my students that someone close to me died, someone who was around their age.

After teaching, I went to Ben’s with Jerm the Perm to eat wings. #NOTtheAppropriateAayofDealingWithaDeath.

Teaching my students that day felt odd because I was able to be there for them, but I wasn’t able to be there for my play little brother. It made me question the meaning of what I was doing. If I can’t help people from my home, Oakland, then what am I doing? I’ve held on to this ambivalence until I went to Oakland three weeks ago and formally grieved his death. Continue reading

Listening To Kanye [The Mental Health Files]

808’s and Heartbreak Album Cover.


Went through, deep depression when my momma passed/
Suicide, what kinda talk is that?/
But I been talking to God for so long/
And if you look at my life I guess he’s talking back- Kanye West, “Clique,” Cruel Summer

As often as Kanye West talks about the state of his mental health, one would think that we’d be having a national conversation on mental health–kind of like the way we had a wave of conversations about domestic violence in the wake of the Chris Brown-Rihanna incident. Yet, in the four years since Kanye began talking openly about the depression related to the death of his mother and the dissolution of his romantic relationship with longtime paramour Alexis Phifer, the conversations have continued to be one-sided.

A search for “Kanye West and Depression” brings up surprisingly few articles and discussions. There’s a sterile AP article describing his initial comments, Cord Jefferson advising Kanye to go to a therapist on The Root, an MTV news article on his path to recovery, and Tom Breihan in the Village Voice distilling 808’s and Heartbreak down to “emo bellyaching” and a “album-length tantrum at his ex.” While Bassey Ikpi later argued to have some compassion for Kanye, it was one small plea in a sea of indifference and condemnation.

After four years of being open about pain and vulnerability, I’m starting to wonder if society will ever really hear him. Continue reading

New Series: The Mental Health Files

Fallen Chess Piece

Hisks via

Why is it so difficult to find good conversations about mental health? Especially when so many of us brush up against difficult situations that could define us or destroy us over the course of our lives?

I started thinking about this series last year when I watched a very good friend of mine go through a deep struggle with depression. She wasn’t the first person I knew going through that particular process, but she was the first person I was ever afraid for. Her mind was going to a dark place, and I was worried that she wouldn’t want to stay in this world for much longer. She’s still here, but it has been a long, rough process. I read and re-read the Ask a Model Minority Suicide archives, trying to find something that would help her. She already knew about the resources available–in fact, she knew much better than I did: the numbers to the suicide hotlines, the online support groups, the ways to keep on medication without health insurance. She knew how to navigate the system.

But it still wasn’t helping.

Around this time, I became more aware of how many of my friends were in some form of therapy or counseling: how some people became devotees of therapy and others found it lacking; how, as my friends and I get older, we realize exactly how much we’ve used various things to self-medicate. And how little we are told about taking care of all parts of ourselves.

But outside of planning a few interviews, I kept this series in the back of my head.

The only reason this series is finally seeing the light of day isn’t a good one: a little over a week ago, a work acquaintance sent an intent to commit suicide as the subject line of a bcc’ed email.

So, this series isn’t going to be perfect and planned. Maybe it doesn’t need to be.

Maybe it’s supposed to be a little raw.

Maybe it doesn’t need to be perfect to help someone.

I’ve got a few things I’m working on: a couple pieces, some interviews to set up, a public document to open. But, hey, we’re wide open. If you know of good pieces or have a resource or a story to share, send it to us at