Prior to us pursuing our vision of iLBC, we flirted with the idea of owning a Golden Krust franchise (we’re still open to this opportunity in the future, but the call to be a positive beacon for our culture is stronger at this moment)...
On Saturday, December 2nd 2017, news shocked the entire Caribbean diaspora that the founder of the largest Caribbean restaurant franchise (Lowell Hawthorne, 57) died, allegedly by suicide. By no means do we want to spend our time focusing on how he died; instead we want to turn our attention to ending the silence on mental health in our collective Caribbean community.
We’ve seen a good amount of commentary from the Caribbean community that suggests a lack of mental health awareness. Truth be told, if it weren’t for our intimate experiences with mental illness, we know that we might have the same thoughts or misunderstanding. Thoughts like “someone who has experienced so much success, so much support and commands so much respect in his community wouldn't have killed himself.” “He was so nice and kind, always smiling.” Many question how a billionaire, who seemingly has it all “chooses suicide”.
The collective sentiments like those shared is the reason why we want to shine the spotlight on Caribbean #MentalHealth. Mental health includes our emotional, psychological and social well-being. It impacts how we think, feel and act as we cope with life. It determines how we handle stress, relate to others and make choices. Just like we all have varying stages in our physical health, our mental health is impacted by our genetics, chemistry and environmental circumstances. And just like there are physical illnesses with symptoms that are diagnosed and treated, there are common mental illnesses with symptoms that should be diagnosed and treated. Mental illnesses are common and widespread. The number of people in the Caribbean with mental disorders is expected to increase 50 percent by 2020. A mental illness is a disease that causes mild to severe disturbances in thought and/or behavior, it can cause an inability to cope with life’s ordinary demands and routines. With proper care and treatment most individuals learn to cope or recover from mental illness, but similarly to a physical disease that does not receive treatment, when a mental illness is untreated it can be deadly.
One of the more common forms of mental illness sweeping our Caribbean community is depression. This illness manifests itself in various ways but can be detected by examining patterns of changes in behavior and how an individual feels daily. In the Caribbean, mental illness is a silent epidemic marked by stigma and often ill or untreated. So many live with mental illness in silence due to poverty, a lack of access to care and discriminatory attitudes. Mental illness is a threat to the future of our Caribbean collective. It is critical that we heighten not only our awareness as individuals but that collectively we show empathy and compassion for family, friends, colleagues and neighbors. It starts with education and true lasting change is possible if enough of us end the silence and stigma associated with mental health. Talk about it, ask questions and share support!
If you or someone you love is dealing with mental illness in silence, please know that you’re not alone. Email info@ilovebeingcaribbean to get connected to resources near you.