Illness Pervades: On Jovan Belcher and Deferring Judgment

I awakened on this World Aids Day prepared to share haunting HIV/AIDS statistics and anecdotes of how the monster is attempting to shred the lives of black millennial women. Instead, I’m battling dual-stigma.

The ESPN headline flummoxed me.

“Jovan Belcher kills girlfriend, himself”

The subsequent ESPN report is startling.

“Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher fatally shot his girlfriend Saturday, then drove to Arrowhead Stadium and committed suicide in front of his coach and general manager.

Authorities did not release a possible motive for the murder-suicide, though police said that Belcher and his girlfriend, 22-year-old Kasandra M. Perkins, had been arguing recently. The two of them have an infant child.

Belcher thanked general manager Scott Pioli and coach Romeo Crennel before shooting himself in the parking lot of the team’s practice facility, police spokesman Darin Snapp said. Police had locked it down by midmorning and reporters were confined to the street just outside the gates.”

But underlining this misfortune, in the liner notes of the tweets and commentaries is the glaring spotlight of judgment.

“Jovan was too rich and talented to be depressed.”

“What would possess someone to do this?”

“He’s crazy…”

I am rattled.

The stigma of mental illness is the burden in the healing. I buried Agoraphobia in a closet, behind a 4.0, writing accolades, prospering friendships and bold-hued wedges to escape the shame. Behind the potential is the illness.

And potential is overwhelming. We may never know what triggered Jovan Belcher on this December 1, but as the details emerge, let’s be sure of two concrete things:

1) We are reporting facts in a manner that is respectful to the souls lost and their families.

and…

2) We are deferring judgment.

Mental illness is not one-dimensional. It is not as it is depicted in movies and on intriguing episodes of Law & Order. So before we list Belcher’s accomplishments and wonder how a man with so much promise would shorten his legacy, breathe, pause and rethink that tweet or comment on ESPN’s website.

All I ask is that we collectively pause before spewing rhetoric, judgment or plain ol’ unadulterated ignorance.

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