Throughout National Suicide Prevention Week, Brothers will share personal stories of how suicide has affected their lives in an effort to show the impact that suicide can have. The hope is that by creating awareness and shedding light on a hard truth, Brothers may be able to intervene and save a life.
Brothers who want to share their story can send an open letter and a headshot of themselves to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Gregory Dendy, a 2015 initiate of the Zeta Rho Chapter at Fisk University shares the story of his own struggle with thoughts of suicide.
Zeta Rho – 2015
Living For My Family: An Open Letter on Suicide
The following was written four years ago, before attending Fisk University for the start of my undergraduate career. This is not to say that I have fully overcome my depression, or don’t have thoughts of suicide anymore. In all actuality, every day I live there is a constant battle between my head and my heart. One thing that I have found that worked for me is having a community. Having a sense of community, or brotherhood, allows me to feel more involved and having a greater sense of purpose. This feeling of incorporation fuels me to keep going because I’m held accountable more for my being. Again, this is not to say that this will work for everyone. I hope whoever reads this realizes that they are not alone and can in some way be helped by my sharing.
In Phi, Mu and Alpha,
Gregory Dendy, Jr.
As my mom opened the door, I saw the weary look on her face. She had just come home from another fourteen-hour workday. My three younger siblings – ages four, seven, and thirteen – were in their rooms doing homework. And I, the sixteen-year-old with a pile of homework himself, was in the kitchen cooking dinner. A lot was on my mind: fitting in as a sophomore at my high school, supporting my family, the troubles at home, and sticking to my faith.
I never felt like I fit in at KIPP DC College Prep, a public charter high school in Southeast Washington, D.C. Many of my peers did not share the same responsibilities as me. Instead of going to an afterschool club, I raced to my siblings’ school right when ended at 4:15 p.m. to meet with their teachers to check on their progress. Rather than staying after school to hang out with friends, I was reminded of the tasks waiting for me at home, additional responsibilities that I took on in an attempt to make my mom’s day a little shorter. There were many times when our apartment flooded and I had to be there to handle it. While I wanted to help take that weary look of my mom’s face, I sometimes resented that I was just a kid, but I had to act as a parent. In these moments, I had to remind myself to believe that God was going to bring my family and me out of it.
I was worn down. I was frustrated with everything. I wrote gloomy short stories and poems in English class, in the hopes that my teachers would notice, only for me to be praised for my ghastly work. Little did anyone know that I was spending tireless nights crying in my room wondering when it would end?
I did not see a way out. My family was moving to a new apartment because the current one was unlivable thanks to flooding. I decided to skip school under the pretense of moving. I shepherded my siblings to school and snuck back in. The plan was to haul everything from one home to the next and take my life before anyone would notice.
As I was cleaning up, I found an old children’s Bible given to me when I was nine. Disgusted, I tossed the Bible onto the ground. A bookmark fell out with a scripture passage printed on it. It read: “Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.” Reading that verse was a seminal moment in my life. I gained a renewed focus: I had to pave the way for my siblings.
I was always the oldest, but I no longer saw this role as a burden but as a responsibility. Life was beating me down, but I had to get over it and become stronger. My mom never went to college. My father, who was barely in my life, had not either. I would go to college. I would set an example for my younger brothers and sister. I would not be a product of my environment but the product of what my environment should be.
Now as a high school senior, my goals are grander. I am more at peace with life and want to serve and support more than just my family. I understand my siblings look up to me but what about those around us? As a college graduate, I will show those from my corner of this city that life’s struggles can be overcome. It no longer enough to impact my family, I want to serve my community. I should not just help wipe the weary look off of my mom’s face but all of those around me.