I recently read an article from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution about a boy who attempted suicide within 10 minutes of getting home after school. He died in the hospital a week later. He was only 13 years old.

Last year, in my state of Georgia, 43 kids, one as young as nine years old, have died by suicide — and I could have been one of them. That’s both terrifying and sobering to write and admit.

One sentence from the AJC article that stood out to me was from a family member of the boy. She said, “This has to be an accident, because black people don’t do that.” Reading those words brought back a rush of so many emotions I’d experienced over a year before, when I had my own mental health crisis.

Let me backtrack for a second. I’m a black, 16-year-old girl from a city about 30 miles north of Atlanta. During my freshman year of high school, I developed a chronic illness that caused me to lose consciousness. My life changed drastically.

I went from being a competitive gymnast to someone who could hardly walk, most days. Because of my physical illness, I was bullied, sexually harassed and threatened. I ended up missing over 200 classes and my parents had to sit me down and talk to me about the possibility of living with them as an adult. I lost hope and developed an eating disorder, self-harming because, let’s face it, it was the one thing I could control. I eventually spiraled deeper in depression and attempted suicide.

Black. People. Don’t. Do. That.

Those words resonated through my mind every time I purged after a meal.

Black. People. Don’t. Do. That.

I thought about those words whenever I raked a razor across my arms or thighs and watched red blossom from my dark brown skin.

Black. People. Don’t. Do. That.

It was something I thought about before attempting to swallow a handful of my dad’s blood pressure medicine. I was barely 15 years old then.

Later on, my parents worked with me to find an African American therapist who I could relate to (which was like searching for the last black unicorn). A couple of months after I started therapy, I realized the irony in taking medication for blood pressure, but not for your mental state.

October 10 marks World Mental Health Day, but why should we just stop there? We shouldn't. I challenge every person reading this to take action today, tomorrow and every day. Be willing to have conversations around mental health with your friends and family. Take charge over your life and your environment. Stand up to the stigma in your community.

And because I’m still here, kicking and fighting, I want to take the time to thank those who have used their voices and public platforms to validate the importance of mental health in the black community. Thank you for caring. Thank you for fighting for black lives on all fronts, because Black Lives DO Matter. Thank you for fighting for not just yourselves, but for everyone.

Thank you Taraji P. Henson for creating an amazing non-profit organization that works to end the stigma in minority communities. Thank you Chance the Rapper for continuing to invest in younger generations’ well-being. Thank you Michelle Williams for having the courage to speak about your struggles with mental health. With every story and experience shared, we are working towards a brighter future where there are fewer quotes and sentiments like the one mentioned in the AJC article.

Thank you for being the influence in so many people’s lives and for not being ashamed. Thank you for using your platform to impact countless others.

Thank you for understanding that it is OK to be notOK.