Yesterday I was busy running around in a pre-vacation frenzy (still haven’t packed; my ride’s coming at 3:45) so it wasn’t until around midnight that I read the awful news that Erica Kennedy, author the bestselling 2004 music scene satire Bling, had been found dead at her home in Miami. She was 42 years old. No cause of death has been released yet, but she had been suffering from depression, which has led to speculation as to whether it was suicide. Vanessa K. Bush posted a quite moving essay on Essence’s website about Kennedy in which she acknowledged her own struggles with depression, and the particular pressures that can accompany coping with it in the Black community.
“Therapy has been my saving grace,” she says, but ”…I’ve had friends who scoff and say, you don’t need therapy, you need Jesus. (And by the way, I am Christian.) I’ve had family members give me the side-eye when I talk about seeing a therapist. And sadly, I think that kind of response is why so many Black women would rather suffer than reach out.”
I’d venture to add that that among the culture at large—including many for whom therapy is viewed as a religion—there can be a shocking level of ignorance around the topic of depression. It’s astonishing how many people think it’s something that can be “snapped out” of , or who don’t understand that many levels exist on the continuum of depression, and that some journey to a darkness so unspeakable that the rest of us can only guess at it.
There are those who might look at Kennedy and wonder why a beautiful and talented woman with so much going for her could ever—if she in fact did do herself in—get to such an awful place. And those are the people who stand to learn the most here. Depression doesn’t discriminate. It’s an equal-opportunity life-fucker-upper. It’s a desperate and horrible and very lonely place to be, often made much worse if the people around the person suffering don’t understand the very realness and severity of the illness. I don’t want to get all public service announcement here, but this stuff is important: If somebody you care about is depressed, go love the hell out of them. Be patient as hell with them too, and a pain in the ass and make sure they’re getting the help they need. You can’t cure them—I’d imagine Kennedy did have friends who were there for her, fighting very hard for her—but you can let them know you get it.