Jul. 10, 2017 - My name is Dionne Monsanto and I gave birth to a brilliant beautiful girl, Siwe, who took her life at 15 years of age. She lived and died with depression and anxiety disorder. She was and is my black butterfly. #siwelives
Although it has been 8 years since her death, I miss her more than I can express. I have become an avid mental health advocate, a voice for my community, the executive director for The Siwe Project and the board member of the NYC Chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. My life is quite often a public dialogue about Siwe’s struggles with depression.I share her story internationally. This supports my personal healing and gives others space to heal as well. 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 (and still is) important to me that our communities, especially the youth, had 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, I am a part of a global movement to end 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. Monday, July 8th, 2019 will be the 8th annual No Shame Day.
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 C. Monsanto is the Executive Director of The Siwe Project and an active board member for AFSP’s New York City Chapter. She is a Certified Yoga Teacher as well as a Life Coach. She may be found on Instagram @dionnecmonsanto, Twitter @joyousocean, as well as @thesiweproject on Instagram and Twitter.