How We Can REALLY Honor the Legacy of Don Cornelius

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Terrie Williams

When the world heard of the tragic passing of Don Cornelius, we had different reactions. Some were in disbelief, others paid homage to the legend with a “Soul Train line” in Times Square, while many reflected on his immense impact on society.

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But one thing most people either chose not to accept or simply did not want to accept was the fact that Don Cornelius was dealing with serious internal issues; so much so that he took his own life. No matter what the root cause, poor mental health is a dangerous issue that people unfortunately do not address – especially in our community. And yet it continues to destroy the lives of those suffering from it (and of their loved ones).

Because mental health and depression are such significant and critical issues, it’s only right to enlist the expertise of someone qualified to speak on the subject. That’s why, this week, I’m honored to have Terrie Williams, clinical therapist and veteran public relations counselor give us her words of wisdom:

We are all mourning the loss this week of Soul Train creator and cultural icon, Don Cornelius.  An American success story, Don left us with a 35-year history lesson in business acumen, cultural exportation, and community uplift.  That’s all good. We should take some time to measure and celebrate Don’s legacy.  That’s easy.  What’s not easy is to discuss how and why he died.  Yes, he hid his demons well. But clearly they were there because this 75-year old icon with a body of work most of us will never achieve chose to end his own life with a gunshot to the head.

By all accounts, Don was a very private man. True to form, he didn’t leave a note so we don’t know what moved him to end his life. What we do know is that we did not have to lose Don this way. This silence about depression is now killing us.  It is real. It is deadly. And, it does not discriminate. According to the World Health Organizations, by the year 2020, depression will be the second leading cause of death behind heart disease for everyone.

As a veteran public relations counselor and clinical therapist who manages her own depression, I know for sure we all need to learn to identify its symptoms – what it looks like, sounds like and feels like — and get help for those that need it. We must take care of our mental health… and get a “check-up from the neck up.”

My heartfelt love and prayers go out to Don’s family, friends.

Terrie M. Williams is the author of Black Pain: It Just Looks Like We’re Not Hurting and the co-founder of The Stay Strong Foundation.  You can follow her at twitter.com/terriewilliams or visit http://www.storiesthatheal.samhsa.gov or http://www.thestaystrongfoundation.org.

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