On Dr. Teleka Patrick and the Fight for Black Women's Mental Health

by Tejai Beulah I first wrote about Dr. Teleka Patrick on Thursday, January 9, 2014. By that date...

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by Tejai Beulah

I first wrote about Dr. Teleka Patrick on Thursday, January 9, 2014. By that date, Dr. Patrick had been missing from Kalamazoo, Michigan since Thursday, December 5, 2013. I wrote about her because I didn’t like the way the national media was covering her story at the time. The first few weeks of the case, Dr. Patrick was presented as an accomplished young woman and a promising doctor. However, as more information was learned about her from social media and her ex-husband, the story changed. Dr. Patrick was no longer Dr. Patrick. She was a missing crazy woman who had stalked Gospel singer, Pastor Marvin Sapp. Little more was said about all that Dr. Patrick achieved by the age of 30. No empathy was shown for the fact that she was clearly suffering from a break with reality in the YouTube videos that were broadcast about the Internet. The national media had dismissed her.




On Wednesday, April 9, 2014, I learned that Dr. Patrick’s body had been found in a small river in Porter, Indiana, a short distance from where she had abandoned her car. There’s a part of me that feels that I have no right to the grief and the anger that I have in my heart. I didn’t know Dr. Patrick. I don’t know her family and her friends. Yet, I mourn her. My deepest sympathies are with her people. I mourn and grieve for the loss of a daughter, sister, loved one, and friend. I mourn and grieve for what this society has lost in Dr. Patrick. She was a young black woman with so much promise and potential in the world of medicine and Christian community.

And, I’m also angry. How did they, her family, friends, and co-workers miss the signs of her mental illness? Was she really that good at hiding her symptoms? How could she not seek help for herself? Was she trying to cure herself by becoming a psychiatrist? How could Marvin Sapp and his church just revoke her membership without making a referral for prayer and/or counseling at another church? Did anybody at the church pray for/with her? Why didn't the pastor didn’t issue a statement of comfort and support to her family when she went missing? Again, how was she able to hide her illness so well?

I have these questions that will probably never be answered. I probably have no right to ask them. I’m not family. I’m not a friend. But, I see so much of myself and so many of my friends and associates in Dr. Patrick. Many of us are young, black Christian women with advanced degrees. We are medical doctors, PhDs, preachers, businesswomen, lawyers, teachers, and financial professionals. And, many of us are so busy achieving that we don’t properly take care of ourselves. Dr. Teleka Patrick represents the triumphs and the tragedies of being a black woman in America in the 21st century. She accomplished much more than our black foremothers could have ever imagined a black woman could achieve in this country. Yet, care for her mental and emotional health fell completely by the wayside. We, I’m talking specifically to black women here, must look at her life and death and become more mindful of taking care of ourselves.

Not just our resumes. Not just our bank accounts. Not our hair, fingernails, and wardrobe. Not the house, not our loved ones. But, ourselves. Go to the doctor. Go to the counseling center. Exercise. Drink water. Take care of yourself. Yes, the world needs you, but you need you, too. It’s okay to be vulnerable and ask for help. If you pray, pray. If you meditate, meditate. But, pray and meditate and use the physical resources available on earth to help you spiritually. It’s okay. Take care of yourself.


Tejai Beulah blogs here.

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