Colors of Depression

Colors of DepressionEver since August 9th, 2014, I have been scratching at my brain, trying to figure out what I can do. Health issues prevented me from protesting. I tried to spread as much information as possible, but it didn’t feel like enough. Then I read a Huffington Post article about how African-American women are less likely to get treatment for depression.

I can’t pretend to know what it’s like to be black, to live in 2015 and still feel like people judge you and treat you based on your skin color. I do know what it’s like to have depression, though. I know how it feels to not want to ask for help because my depression doesn’t feel real enough to me. I’ve spent weeks in bed, unable to feed or shower myself. When you’re depressed, those simple things feel impossible, never mind mustering up the strength to ask for help.

report published by researchers at the University of Wisconsin found that poverty, parenting, racial and gender discrimination put black women — particularly low-income black women — at greater risk for major depressive disorder (MDD).

It becomes a vicious cycle. You can’t get ahead because you are depressed, and your depression gets worse because of your circumstances. The more depressed you are, the worse things get. You feel overwhelmed and simply freeze, give up.

In 2008, I started a pen pal support group for people with depression. I had to lay it to rest in 2011, but it was wildly successful during those three years. In the years since, many people have asked me to revive Letters of Love. After reading that Huffington Post article and the CDC study, it seemed obvious. There needs to be a support system for black women with depression.

Now, I know that there are going to be people who say that all people with depression need support. This is true. No one should feel alone. But these statistics are staggering, and I’ve seen firsthand what can happen when you are black and your family doesn’t believe in mental illness.

“During slavery, you were supposed to be the strong one. You weren’t supposed to speak. You were supposed to just do,” said Esney M. Sharpe, founder and CEO of the Bessie Mae Women’s Health Center in East Orange, New Jersey, which offers health services for uninsured and underserved women.

The stigma needs to end. Depression affects people of all colors. Eventually, my plan is to expand to other people of color, but first I want to focus specifically on black women. I want to empower black women to seek treatment by providing support. To me, support is:

  • empowerment
  • knowledge and education
  • connecting with others
  • improving self-esteem
  • positive coping methods

This project is in super early stages. I have to move slowly (I have a lot on my plate right now, mainly my own health issues, and I know that I can’t help anyone else if I can’t help myself, first). I’ve decided to call it Colors of Depression. Right now, I’m mostly keeping a notebook and jotting down ideas, tweeting things when I can, using the hashtags #colorsofdepression and #blackdepressionsupport.

While in the shower this afternoon, I thought of a great way to provide support: care packages. They would be full of things like information brochures, slippers, and journals. Like I said, this is all very early stages. I would like to get an email list and website going, and then create a campaign to raise funds for care packages.

If you’re interested in being involved, please let me know! I can use all the help I can get.

Ask Me Anything!

Ask Me Anything

With 7 weeks to go until The Nanny with the Skull Tattoos is released, I thought it would be fun to do a little Q&A for the book! I set up an interview page over at Smashwords. Here’s a sneak peek:

What’s the story behind your latest book?

The streets of my city are flavored with Spanish love ballads and the spicy scent of food cooking. More and more young people don’t want to learn Spanish, though. My great-grandmother has forgotten much of the Italian she once spoke, and no one else in my family learned. The more American we become, the more of our own culture we lose. As soon as I realized this, it shocked me. That blow created Savannah, a feisty twenty-something-year-old Boricua. When she meets Max, she can’t understand why he doesn’t speak Spanish, too. “It’s your heritage,” she tells him in dismay. She upends his life.

The Nanny with the Skull Tattoos is also a love letter to single dads. Max is raising his daughter while going to college and working full-time. He’s determined to make a better life for his daughter, even if it means giving up his passion: music. Savannah recognizes this and brings him back to life.

It’s a love story, but it’s also an exploration of my generation.

Click here to see the rest of the questions I answered. Then, leave a comment here with a question of your own! I’ll add your questions with my answers. Check back to see if I picked your question!

While you’re waiting, read the first 5 chapters of The Nanny with the Skull Tattoos for free.

Chapter 1 • Chapter 2 • Chapter 3 • Chapter 4 • Chapter 5

Cover Reveal | Black Iris, by Leah Raeder

As much as I love helping out other indie authors, I also don’t want to overwhelm my readers with too many promos. I stopped signing up for cover reveals and the like a couple of years ago, promising myself that I would only do it if the book was one that I myself absolutely had to read. Black Iris is that book.

I started following Leah Raeder because she is hilarious (example: #DadReadsBlackIris). I found out about Black Iris through a casual mention in one of her tweets. I knew right away that I needed to read this book.

New Adult is still a fledgling genre, and it could easily be dismissed as fluff if we let it. We need more edgy, diverse books featuring characters who took different paths, people with dark skin, and love stories that aren’t the traditional boy/girl.

We need books like Black Iris.

Black Iris, by Leah Raeder

April is the cruelest month, T.S. Eliot said, and that’s because it kills. It’s the month with the highest suicide rate. You’d think December, or even January—the holidays and all that forced cheer and agonized smiling pushing fragile people to the edge—but actually it’s spring, when the world wakes from frostbound sleep and something cruel and final stirs inside those of us who are broken. Like Eliot said: mixing memory and desire, stirring dull roots with spring rain. In the deepest throes of depression, when sunlight is anguish and the sky throbs like one big raw migraine and you just want to sleep until you or everything else dies, you’re less likely to commit suicide than someone coming out of a depressive episode. Drug companies know this. That’s why antidepressants have to be marked with the warning MAY CAUSE SUICIDAL THOUGHTS.

Because what brings you back to life also gives you the means to destroy yourself.

ABOUT BLACK IRIS

It only took one moment of weakness for Laney Keating’s world to fall apart. One stupid gesture for a hopeless crush. Then the rumors began. Slut, they called her. Queer. Psycho. Mentally ill, messed up, so messed up even her own mother decided she wasn’t worth sticking around for.

If Laney could erase that whole year, she would. College is her chance to start with a clean slate.

She’s not looking for new friends, but they find her: charming, handsome Armin, the only guy patient enough to work through her thorny defenses—and fiery, filterless Blythe, the bad girl and partner in crime who has thorns of her own.

But Laney knows nothing good ever lasts. When a ghost from her past resurfaces—the bully who broke her down completely—she decides it’s time to live up to her own legend. And Armin and Blythe are going to help.

Which was the plan all along.

Because the rumors are true. Every single one. And Laney is going to show them just how true.

She’s going to show them all.

COMING APRIL 28TH, 2015

» Pre-order Black Iris «

ABOUT LEAH RAEDER

Leah Raeder is a writer and unabashed nerd. Aside from reading her brains out, she enjoys graphic design, video games, fine whiskey, and the art of self-deprecation. She lives with her very own manic pixie dream boy in Chicago. Visit her at LeahRaeder.com.