The entertainment circle is all a buzz with the news that 44-year-old hip hop executive and pioneer, Chris Lighty has passed away from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Suicide. According to NewsOne, Lighty was the powerhouse behind Violater Records and management and in that position, he guided the careers of hip-hop heavyweights like 50 Cent, Busta Rhymes and Missy Elliot.
Must Read: Black Men & Depression: The Top 8 Signs
It’s amazing that you can read about someone’s success on paper, but have no clue what torment they’re going through on the inside. According to Black Doctor, over 5 million in the U.S. experience depression every year. While there are many palpable signs that lead to the discovery of your own depression, many Black people, especially men are guilty of internalizing their pain, self-medicating and/or using religion as a coping mechanism, which causes it to eat away at us more than it helps to cease the sadness.
It has been reported that Lighty’s been dealing with a few personal issues–he and his wife Veronica were divorced last year (and sources say he’s never been the same) and Lighty owed $5 million in taxes to the IRS. The money owed seems like a large amount, thus we must remember that as a record exec, Lighty was said to be worth over $30 million. The weight on Lighty’s shoulders and the pressure he felt leading up to his last breathing moment must have been unbearable enough for him to think that suicide was the only option.
Lighty posted a photo of vodka with pineapple juice earlier this summer and tweeted:
I don’t want to read too much in to this tweet, but it is striking that Leghty made a point of explaining that he was drinking because he was stressed. This photo could have easily been mine or yours. How many times have you had a strong sip of liquid therapy after a stressful day at work? Many people who deal with depression turn to alcohol to deal with their issues. The temporary stress reliever may seem innocent in the midst of happy hour, but once that hour’s up, you’re left with your pain. Warning signs of depression make themselves apparent in various ways. It could be a complaint between faux giggles or an Instagram photo of an alcoholic beverage with a snarky caption, but they should never be ignored.
Research proves that men learn to be silent and strong, therefore they vary rarely express when they need help. Whether their problem is minimal or monumental, they’d rather see if they could solve it themselves or just deal with it. As a music industry head honcho, I’m guessing that Chris Lighty was that type of man. He seemed as if he was proud of his hard work as evidenced in the tweet below:
Hard-working men are often at the top of the list for depression. When there is always work to be done, there is little time left for self-care. Many celebrities tweeted their shock in Lighty’s death. One could assume that Lighty kept his pain from the music acts he’s worked with or influenced because the surprise of his death shook them to the core. It brought back memories of former Def Jam Vice President, Shakir Stewart committing suicide in 2008. Stewart’s wife mentioned that in his final days, he was unrecognizable, but it was obvious he was in deep pain and suffered in silence.
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“Black people don’t kill themselves. We pray to the Lord for deliverance,” I remember my mother saying this to me when we heard the news that Don Cornelius had taken his own life. Granted, my mother’s opinion is that of a 50-something year-old southern black woman. She’s old school and suicide to her, was a thing that weak-minded white people did and she passed this mentality down to me. I wonder if Lighty prayed?
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African Americans often use religion as a way to avoid therapy. We throw Jesus at any sticky situation we find ourselves in to pacify our own worries. I am not knocking anyone with a strong faith that finds solace in their chosen beliefs, but praying or crying to God about your sadness doesn’t completely end your pain. According to Barbara Crafton’s book, “Jesus Wept,“ religion can provide a nurturing experience, but it often doesn’t. Religion emphasizes faith, which can bring comfort and peace. The positive power of prayer, the confession of sins bringing relief, the importance of trust in God and the instructive value of suffering help to alleviate depressive thoughts and feelings.
Often at the center of depression that leads to suicide, is a desire for relief from suffering. Even the strongest in faith can be aflicted with a pain so deep it seems insurmountable. Unless you’ve ever been deep enough in your own darkness that death became an option, it’s hard to understand a sad soul’s solution to their pain.
Every suicide makes a statement. That statement is that if I have two choices–a hard life or death, I’d rather choose death. I don’t know if Lighty was a religious man, but I do know that far too often, African Americans turn to religion, among other things like self medication and sheer silence, instead of seeking the help they need. Ultimately, it is a terrifying truth that depression can kill.
Check out a few of Chris Lighty’s last tweets. They’re pretty eerie.: