Don Cornelius Died . . . So What?

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On February 1, 2012, Los Angeles police declared “Soul Train” legend Don Cornelius dead of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound. As my Facebook feed filled up with R.I.P. Don Cornelius, I thought to myself, We’re not addressing the larger issue here: how he died.

It got me thinking about suicide rates among the black community. Suicide is something largely not spoken of among black people. No one likes to discuss suicide after someone’s self-inflicted death, but I think it’s important to address the issue. A study released in 2006 showed that each year 70,000 black people try to kill themselves and about 1.4 million or 4 percent attempt suicide at least once in their lives. From an article in the Associated Press:

While depression is strongly tied to suicidal behavior in whites, anxiety disorders were more common than depression in blacks who attempted suicide in the study. That is an important racial difference that could alert doctors to black patients who might be contemplating suicide, said [Dr. Alvin Poussaint, a Harvard University psychiatry professor and race relations specialist].

According to an article that appeared in the Journal of Black Psychology:

Historically, suicidal behaviors among African Americans received scant attention because of the belief that very few African Americans completed suicide; it was also assumed that they did not experience depression. Blacks were historically viewed as a psychologically unsophisticated race that were naturally high spirited and unburdened with a sense of responsibility.

Suicide rates among black men are growing. A 2007 statistic from the National Institute of Mental Health shows that of every 100,000 people ages 65 and older, 14.3 percent of them are likely to kill themselves. Mr. Cornelius was 75.

There’s no indication that Mr. Cornelius let anything on to family or friends. In a Washington Post article, Rev. Jesse Jackson noted that Mr. Cornelius did not seem upset when they spoke a few days prior to Mr. Cornelius’s death. Police say that Mr. Cornelius left no suicide note and are investigating his mental state. They have ruled out a homicide.

A quick snapshot toward the end of Mr. Cornelius’s life shows that he had serious health issues and may have endured a bitter divorce with his second wife. This information doesn’t provide definitive proof that Mr. Cornelius was contemplating suicide, however, it may give us a peek at what may have contributed to his suicide.

Significant health issues are often overlooked in regard to a person’s mental state. Sometimes, a person won’t let on how much pain he or she may be in even though the pain may be unbearable. Mr. Cornelius may have been very lonely and in a lot of physical pain. Those two factors combined may have led him to take his life. But I am speculating—no one knows that for sure.

People will wonder how this unfortunate act could have been prevented. Unfortunately, it couldn’t. Mr. Cornelius did not tell anyone that he was depressed (as far as the media and police know), suffering, or contemplating taking his life. Generally, people most determined to take their own lives will not speak of it to anyone.

But there is a lesson to be learned here. We can encourage people of all races to speak to someone when life gets to be overwhelming and too burdensome. We don’t need anyone else who is blessed with gifts and talents to commit suicide because he or she feels as though no one will listen and no one cares. 1-800-273-8255 or 1-800-SUICIDE are good resources with people who will listen and genuinely care. May we all learn from Mr. Cornelius’s lesson and get help when we truly need it.

5 thoughts on “Don Cornelius Died . . . So What?

  1. Firstly, how appaling is it that in this day and age, a racial prejudice still exists in the suposed ‘advanced medicinal science’.

    Black and/or White (any racial background), are all human, human emotions are equal in scale determination.
    Nothing can be decided ‘scientifically’ as to mechanisms of coping with stress/depression/anxiety etc.
    Ex: two men with separate racial backgrounds, both lose their job and home, who will cope better?

    Theres no telling, because to begin with, the upbringing and loving suportive family will be a factor, as will the why the job and home was lost and who these people are in society.
    One may be a factory worker one may be an architecht.

    Statistics are the problem, focus on what a majority states and you are lost to a fake result. There is always an exception to rule in every statistic.
    Science knows nothing of brain and cns mechanims, science is fraudulant and deadly.

    This guy killed himself because ‘life let him down’. Depression is not a disorder nor is anxiety nor is any suposed mental dysfunction.

    pharma is selling the lie at a huge cost to the human mind while profiting billions.
    Nothing is proven curable in toxically chemical drugging an emotion.

    Depression/adhd/anxiety/bipolar etc. All emotional responses and in need of support, love, care, advice, direction to overcome. Not day in day out chemical toxins that have proven to further induce mental deterioration, suidal/homicidal ideation and success.
    This world is ruled by money, materialistic value and appearances, that in turn forces upon the majority a constant struggle for success, good income, the lifestyle, friendships etc.
    The feelings of failure, loss, letting people down and hopelessness are from the world that we slave to please.
    Or, we lose a loved one, maybe find out a partner cheated on us, the kids are too much to cope with alone, moneys tight, cant pay bills, etc….. We are human so we get down, feel a burden, cant deal with it all.
    Whatever the reason? A drug is no cure, no drug has cured anyone ever in history.
    The life we live and or our attitudes to what is important not what we think is important is the only way to rid the emotive epidemic.
    This poor guy probably had enough of the life he was within, felt unable to release his pain any other way.
    This is the problem, he should not have been alone, he should not feel there is no one or nothing to help.
    People dont be born with depression, life creates it.
    There is no drug that will solve life . People, morals, listening, talking, laughing, these are the ways to good health both mentally and physically.
    I just hope no one has to go thru what i did to learn this. Medication ssri/snri have disabled me and created a psychotic out of a prior passive nature.
    Ive studied these drugs, the depression, the disorders and there is nothing but profit for pharma in a world of emotions sold for disease.

    Kids drugged for being, active, inquizitive, lonely, bored adults drugged for being, divorced, angry, stressed, worried, etc… Bipolar is a scapegoat for the over drugging and causing ppermanant damages.
    Since these drugs were marketed two decades ago, the mental health deterioration rate has more than tripled, admissions to asylums and institutions has more than doubled.
    Those who are un noted are either imprisoned/ suicide successes or with a dysfunctional life believing they have a disease.
    Please see i only tell you to help this lie stop. I know people, people always defend a disease, i used to.
    Theres no good in lying to yourself, it cost me dear and i still pay in the constant withdrawal as i excruciatingly taper the doses.
    Learn about the drugs via foi, while you still can, they are (pharma) fighting to get censorship of clinical trials etc, you have to do what you can to regain your health and prevent damage.

  2. Such a sad ending for a man who brought so much joy and brilliant music to the world… made even sadder by the fact that if there wasn’t so much of a stigma surrounding mental health it mght have been different.
    thanks for such a moving post.

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