The pain had suddenly begun to gain momentum. Kenneth Todd Nelson, then 27 years old, laid on his couch as a tingling sensation traversed through his body.
It was daytime but at this moment Nelson was in a dark space. For weeks he had not seen anyone and he was not talking to anyone.
“I felt hopeless,” said Nelson.
The left side of his body then went numb. Alarmed, Nelson decided that it was time to seek professional help. Upon arriving at the hospital the doctors assumed that he was having a stroke. After running tests and asking a number of questions regarding Nelson’s health and his personal life, however, the diagnosis was far from what Nelson anticipated.
According to doctors, Nelson was suffering from anxiety and depression. Among other stress factors he had recently loss both of his parents. The doctors suggested that Nelson take medicine but he refused.
“I didn’t want to because I didn’t want people thinking I was crazy,” said Nelson.
After refusing treatment, Nelson left the hospital that day and decided to “pray everything away.” But as time passed the pain still had not subsided. As matters got worse his pecking conscious seemed to not be enough.
And then, on the night of Aug. 13, 2013, he received more devastating news. His friend, Lee Thompson Young, had died. He too was suffering from depression and had committed suicide. Young had most recently starred in the TNT television drama Rizzoli and Isles. For Nelson, enough had been enough. That night he heard a voice that said, “you need to do something about this,” and this time he decided to listen.
Nelson sought out a therapist and was prescribed medicine. Subsequently, he had taken the initiative to become proactive towards the betterment of his health.
As Nelson’s health improved he began to realize that his “pain turned into power.”
“I decided to put myself out there,” he said. “I was ashamed at first and didn’t want to talk about it. Once I did it was the best thing that ever happened to me.”
Nelson started talking about ideas with his friends that could help him and others combat depression. Because of his creative background, he had come up with the idea to develop a documentary that would unveil the raw truth and seriousness of depression in the African-American male community. According to the Centersfor Disease Control and Prevention, in 2010, 2,144 African-Americans committed suicide. Of that number, 81.8 percent were men.
Nelson was opening up to his family and friends more. The more he opened up, the more he began to listen to them. He would later find out disturbing facts about the people he loved. On more than one occasion someone would call him and say something along the lines of, “I didn’t want to say anything but I thought about killing myself too.”
The prevalence and severity of silent sufferers of depression could not have become more real to Nelson. This cause had become even more important to him because of his 9-year-old son. Because his son is a young black male he does not want him growing up learning what, according to Nelson, so many other black males have learned: that they cannot have the human experience of communicating their feelings.
“We are taught to be tough and not to cry,” said Nelson.
“I want to break that cycle for my son.”
Although both women, Nelson says that his partners still feel the need to take action and that every gender and race can learn something from the film.
“Working with them has helped me a lot,” he said.
Their up and coming documentary is titled Face of Darkness: A Journey to Healing. Nelson and his fellow producers are currently in the stage of securing funding and getting the word out. According to Nelson, although the task has been challenging, the community support has been “amazing.”
To Nelson their progress has been good. Every time something happens related to depression people send him something that they know relates to the film.
“They associate me with this cause,” he said.
“It lets me know that they know what I’m doing.”
With this film, Nelson hopes to open the eyes of people and have them take the initiative of becoming accountable for their surrounding peers and community members. Nelson wants to remove the formality behind the question, “how are you doing” and wants people to ask only when they have the time to actually listen.
“You never know,” said Nelson.
“Someone might want to tell you how they feel because you can potentially change or save their lives.”
With the documentary, Nelson hopes to create a safe platform and space for people to be able to communicate.
“Imagine when your father cannot communicate,” he said.
“Everyone thinks he’s angry but he’s really hurting. It’s really not fair so I’m starting this movement. This movement, this journey to healing has started.”
View the documentary trailer here: