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Local activist opens up about mental health struggles

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Brandon Warren was one of those people who was liable to show up at any event or in any media coverage about violence in Indianapolis. He organized the peace walks, went on TV, talked to community members, all of it.

That took a toll on a young man who came on the anti-violence scene in Indianapolis in 2017 when his best friend was killed their senior year at Warren Central High School.

‘There’s help out there’: Mental health conversation keeps moving forward

There was a constant pressure to appear strong and not show signs of weakness, and it culminated in Warren trying to kill himself in January.

NATIONAL SUICIDE PREVENTION LIFELINE: 1-800-273-8255 or chat online

He survived and is still recovering. He’s considered himself “rebirthed” ever since.

Warren is an example of someone who felt like he had to carry the weight of the world on his shoulders. He founded an anti-violence group, We LIVE Indy, and wrote a book, “B Inspired,” about being forced into activism. So many people have looked to him as a high schooler and now a Ball State University student to be a guiding light and offer inspiration.

At the same time, Warren wasn’t one to totally ignore his mental health. He realized he needed help his freshman year of college — off on his own for the first time — and reached out to his mom.

Warren started seeing a therapist and was diagnosed with major depression, impulsivity, anxiety, PTSD and bipolar disorder.

But then his therapist retired, and he had a bad experience during the initiation process with a fraternity, which led to his suicide attempt.

“I was alone,” he said. “I was truly alone.”

Warren said the university knows about his experience with the fraternity. Asked to comment, a university spokesperson responded: “Although we cannot and would not discuss a matter specific to any individual student, the University is committed to an excellent experience for every student, including those who participate in Greek Life. We take seriously any matter brought to our attention that does not meet these standards of excellence.”

No more suffering in silence

Warren is back in therapy and on medication now. He’s about to publish a new book, “B Inspired 2 Cont;nue,” from Christian Faith Publishing. The semicolon symbolizes affirmation against suicide, depression and other mental health issues.

“The lord, what he did is he renewed my mind and essentially rebirthed me to be a new creation,” he said.

Warren knows as a young Black man why it’s important for him to be open about what’s happened to him. He knows there’s a stigma Black men face when it comes to mental health. It’s the same one that made him feel he had to always show his strength, never his weakness.

A 2019 study from the Journal of Community Health found the suicide rate for Black teenage boys increased 60% from 2001 to 2017 and girls had an increase of 182%. Suicide was the second leading cause of death for Black teenagers in that time.

“Not releasing those emotions can catch up to you if you don’t allow yourself time for grieving, for healing,” Warren said.

He wants people to know it’s OK to cry, and it’s OK to get help.

Contact staff writer Tyler Fenwick at 317-762-7853. Follow him on Twitter @Ty_Fenwick.

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