Mental Illness and suicide within the African American community is yet another silent killer the community is contending with nationwide.

According to the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention (AFSP), an organization that raises awareness, funds scientific research, and provides resources and aid to those affected by suicide, each year more than 44,000 people die from suicide, which costs the U.S. almost $70 billion annually.  

In fact, suicide is the tenth leading cause of death among adults in the United States and the second leading cause of death among people aged 10 to 24, and the rates are steadily increasing.

Venessa Abram, an Atlanta author and certified speaker and instructor for the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and a junior board member for AFSP, is all too familiar with the trauma, pain and stigma surrounding mental illness, depression and suicide.

Her older brother, a decorated military veteran committed suicide nearly two years ago and she herself had attempted to end her life in years past.  

Now as a survivor, Abram has made it her mission to help families heal and educate others about the realities of mental illness, depression and suicide prevention, through an upcoming national speaking tour.

The “Self Discovery: Pain, Positioning, and Purpose” tour is an educational, empowering and inspirational forum for individuals and families struggling with the causes and effects of mental illness, depression and suicide.  

“People who have been personally impacted by mental illness need to know they are not alone,” Abram said. “The goal of this tour is to not only educate people about mental illness, depression and the stigma surrounding suicide but to help instill hope, renewed purpose and a thirst for life, through the powerful messages brought from some amazing speakers, about overcoming those dark periods we all experience at times,”

“My older brother, who was a veteran, took his life 16 months ago and since then I have been on a journey of healing and reaching out to see how I can bring more awareness to ravages of suicide,” she continued.  “In fact, I too attempted suicide in 2008 and realized that God spared my life for a reason. Now I must do what I can to help remove the stigma surrounding mental illness and suicide, and help families heal who have experienced it.”

The Self Discovery: Pain, Positioning, and Purpose tour will kick off in Atlanta at the Norcross Ballroom, located at 10 College St., Norcross, GA 30071, on Sunday, June 3. This event is being hosted by Abram in honor of her deceased brother’s birthday, which is June 5.

The tour will also travel to Columbia, SC; Charlotte, NC; Gary, IN; New Orleans; Dallas, TX; Baltimore and Jackson, Miss.

Portions of the proceeds from the Self Discovery: Pain, Positioning and Purpose Tour will benefit AFSP and their work to fund research to improve interventions, train clinicians in suicide prevention, and advocate for policy that will save lives.

During the tour, Abram will also be signing her award-winning signature tour book, “The Valley of Transfiguration: 40 Days with God in My Grief: Pain Positioning and Purpose.”

In addition to Abram, other Atlanta speakers participating in all eight-cities of the tour who will bring encouragement In, enlightenment and inspiration to attendees include:

  • • Denise Cochran, an author, speaker and certified life coach;
    • Norma Stanley, a disability community consultant, and advocate, author and singer, and
    • Torre A. Stocker, an author, business consultant and mentor who will be part of the entire tour.

Additional speakers participating in select cities include Joyce Mitchell-Miles, Robin Hair, Nichole Ebullience Peters, Ashley Smith, Ziza McMillan, Deacon Jesse L. Anderson, Ira Warren, Teresa Wright-Johnson, Pastor Torrey Montgomery, Kimberly McGowan, Pastor L. Renee Box, and Twylia G. Reid.

“Mental Illness is an invisible disability that often leads to suicide and, in recognition of National Disabilities Awareness Month which was in March, but which is important every day of the year, I wanted to let people know this is something that is becoming an epidemic and is devastating families all around the country,” Abram said.  

(Photo: Thinkstock)

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