My name is Dionne Monsanto and I gave birth to a brilliant beautiful girl, Siwe, who took her life at 15 years old. She lived and died with depression. She was and is my black butterfly. #siwelives
Six years later, I am a mental health advocate, a voice for my community, the executive director for The Siwe Project and the board chair for the NYC Chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. My life is a public dialogue about Siwe’s struggles with depression. I share. We heal. Talk saves lives.
At her memorial in 2011, Bassey Ikpi, founder of The Siwe Project and a spoken word artist who is diagnosed with Bi-Polar II disorder, and Peta-Gaye Williams, a licensed clinical social worker, spoke movingly and informatively about the subject of mental health. It was important to me that our communities, especially the youth, have solid information about the mental health challenges in our community.
When Siwe died, a friend of mine from work was unsure what to tell people about her death and how she died. I told my friend that Siwe took her life. She asked me if she could just say that. I assured her that I was not going to lie about my children, in life or death.
Talk saves lives. By speaking out, we are slowly ending the stigma and shame around mental health issues. #NOshameDay began in July of 2012, as part of Minority Mental Health month. Each year, #NOshame Day takes place on the second Monday in July.
I hope that you will share your story via Twitter and tag @thesiweproject (and @afspnational) with the hashtag #NOshame or #NoShameDay. Visit The Siwe Project on Facebook and share your story there, too.
While sharing our stories does not change our reality, it softens the blow and we can collectively move toward healing.
Dionne Monsanto is the Executive Director of The Siwe Project and the board chair for AFSP’s New York City Chapter. She is a Certified Yoga Teacher (Bikram and Baptiste) as well as a Life Coach. She may be found on Instagram @asuoabena, Twitter @joyousocean, as well as @thesiweproject on Instagram and Twitter.
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