Thursday, May 10, 2012


Terryn Clevon Pringle: 11/09/1987 - 04/26/2012

Two weeks ago, today, my 24 year old brother committed suicide. He took his red do-rag, looped it around a small pipe (that I never even noticed before) that ran across a small divider wall which separated the dining area from the living area in my mother’s house, tied it around his neck and hung himself. I was at work when I received the frantic call from my cousin. At the time, she didn’t have the facts. All she knew was that somebody said something about someone hanging themselves and she was calling me to find out if I knew what happened.  I hadn’t a clue.  I was just returning to my desk when she called and had missed calls from my sister and mother. I calmly told my cousin I would call my mother back to find out what was going in then I’d let her know. My mother was sobbing when she answered her phone and all she could tell me was, ‘Get Home….Now!’ Although I never imagined this would happen, I knew it was my brother. My mother wouldn’t give me any details and I knew, if something bad happened to any person other than a child of hers, she would have said so. It took 45 minutes (and assistance from my coworkers) for me to gain enough composure to get to my mother’s house because, although I did not have the story, I immediately broke down with the mere thought that something was wrong with my baby brother. When I arrived on the scene, I saw police officers and members of my family outside my Mom’s house, all in tears or with looks of despair on their faces. I ran to the closest cousin I saw (which happened to be my cousin who just lost his brother in March) and he confirmed what my gut told me already – Terryn is dead. He hung himself. He’s gone. Oh. My. Lord!  The news took my breath away and even now, as I think about it, it takes my breath away. My baby brother. My beautiful baby brother. My beautiful, respectful, loving, funny, courageous and strong baby brother committed suicide. 

Being B.A.D (black and depressed) is not something the African American community talks about in public, if at all. For the most part, in the Black community, therapy is frowned upon, thought to be unnecessary (‘just go to church, talk to your pastor….handle it’) and a waste of time and money (‘Why pay somebody to tell all your business to?  Tell a friend for free!’).  Women often form friendships with other women in whom they may confide (some of) their secrets, dilemmas and struggles. Sometimes, though, the things they choose to share are sugar-coated, taken lightly or even brushed off, while other things may not be shared at all. Usually, women who are depressed find ways, other than talking about or dealing with the issue, to ease their pain: shopping, eating, sex, gossiping or engaging in some other form of self-destructive behavior. Men are even worse. They usually deal with their problems by themselves and when they can’t come up with a solution or remedy, it often comes out in aggressive, destructive (to themselves or others) behaviors. As a ‘rule,’ men don’t talk about their feelings: not with friends, not with family, not with a spouse and certainly not with a therapist.  But gone undiagnosed and/or untreated, in men or women, depression can be…..and has been…..deadly.

According to Mental Health America:
Clinical depression is not a personal weakness, gracelessness or faithlessness—it is a common, yet serious, medical illness; a “whole-body” illness that affects your mood, thoughts, body and behavior.
Clinical depression can affect anyone: Anyone can experience clinical depression, regardless of race, gender, age, creed or income. Every year more than 19 million Americans suffer from some type of depressive illness. Depression robs people of the enjoyment found in daily life and can even lead to suicide.
Myths about depression: The myths and stigma that surround depression create needless pain and confusion, and can keep people from getting proper treatment. The following statements reflect some common misconceptions about African Americans and depression: “Why are you depressed? If our people could make it through slavery, we can make it through anything.” “When a black woman suffers from a mental disorder, the opinion is that she is weak. And weakness in black women is intolerable.” “You should take your troubles to Jesus, not some stranger/psychiatrist.” The truth is that getting help is a sign of strength. People with depression can’t just “snap out of it.” Also, spiritual support can be an important part of healing, but the care of a qualified mental health professional is essential. And the earlier treatment begins, the more effective it can be.
What causes clinical depression? Many factors can contribute to clinical depression, including cognitive issues (e.g., negative thinking patterns); biological and genetic factors; gender (it affects more women than men); other medications; other illnesses; and situational factors. For some, a number of these factors seem to be involved, while for others a single factor can cause the illness.
Clinical depression is a treatable illness: The good news is that, like other illnesses such as heart disease or diabetes, clinical depression is treatable with the help of a health care professional. In fact, over 80 percent of people with depression can be treated successfully.
Symptoms of clinical depression: Due to cultural backgrounds, depression may be exhibited differently among African Americans. To help decide if you—or someone you care about—needs an evaluation for clinical depression, review the following list of symptoms. If you experience five or more for longer than two weeks, if you feel suicidal, or if the symptoms interfere with your daily routine, see your doctor, and bring this sheet with you.
  • A persistent sad, anxious or “empty” mood, or excessive crying
  • Reduced appetite and weight loss or increased appetite and weight gain
  • Persistent physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment, such as headaches, digestive disorders and chronic pain
  • Irritability, restlessness
  • Decreased energy, fatigue, feeling “slowed down”
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness, hopelessness, pessimism
  • Sleeping too much or too little, early-morning waking
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities, including sex
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
  • Thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts
My family and I knew my brother was ‘feeling down’ about some things in his life and that he was stressed about other things but……aren’t we all?? We didn’t recognize that his normal laid-back demeanor had turned into withdrawal and disengagement. He made negative comments about himself but we didn’t see them as anything life-threatening. We just continued to encourage him, uplift him and offer our support to assist him with whatever endeavor he chose to improve his life. He was a hardworking young man who, seemingly to us, kinda had it made. He lived at home with Mom, she paid all of the bills, he had an adoring girlfriend and many friends. He was handsome, well-dressed, well-groomed, well-respected and well-received by most (if not all) who knew him. He loved his family and spent quality time with his nieces & nephews. In hindsight, though, I see the signs clearly. He had become less willing to participate in activities, he was losing weight and he was dealing with a few very serious, personal dilemmas. One glaring memory that says it all to me (now) is that, for my mother’s birthday in January, my brother, sisters and I planned to go out to dinner and have our family picture taken. Up until the day we were supposed to go, my brother was on board. But when I called him that day to make sure he was all set for that evening’s plans, he told me ‘No.’ He said he wasn’t going and that we didn’t need him in the picture anyway. I just brushed it off to him being a brat and not having what he always thought he needed (a pocket full of money and the 'perfect' outfit). I later learned that he told my mother his being in the picture would only mess it up. WHERE he got that idea and WHY he would ever think that is way beyond any of our understanding. My brother was the baby in the family….and my mother’s only son. He was showered, smothered and covered in love & attention every single day of his life. Unbeknownst to us, what we gave was not ‘enough’ to sustain my brother and his emotional/mental health. He had negative feelings that were too strong for any amount of love and attention to dispel. He apparently was suffering from mental illness and we had no idea; I'm not even sure if he realized it. But, even if we had known, we didn’t have the power to change it. I just hate that, having dealt with depression myself, I didn’t recognize it in my brother. I was so busy trying to make him believe what I thought of him that I didn’t take the time to listen all the times he expressed how he felt and what he believed about himself. I did not realize he needed much more than words of encouragement & inspiration; I did not hear his cry for help…..and it hurts like hell.

I can (and sometimes do) torture myself with the ‘Ifs, Ands, Buts, Whys, Whens, Whos and Hows’ but it will not bring my brother back. All I can do is cherish his memory and keep it alive by sharing his story….my story….our story. In doing so, I hope that somebody, somewhere will learn something from my family’s experience and be encouraged to get the help they need.  If you take away anything from this blog post, please recognize the seriousness of depression and the importance of not only recognizing the symptoms of depression in yourself or a loved one, but taking action. Hold on to hope, hold on to health, hold on to love and hold on to life!
My dearest baby brother……My heart literally aches for you.  I wish you were still here to talk with and laugh with, spend time with and hold hands with…..I miss your great big hugs and sloppy, baby brother kisses and most of all, I miss hearing your voice & seeing your gorgeous face. I miss you so much.  But you are gone, forever and I must find a way to accept and make peace with that….and with God’s grace, I will. Now that you have your wings, may you Rest In Eternal Peace, Terryn……I Love You.