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WUWM's Teran Powell reports on race and ethnicity in southeastern Wisconsin.

Since her mom's suicide, 'Be sad; keep going' is the mantra Marina Murphy lives by

Marina Murphy
Tyrone Moore, Moore Visions Photography
Marina Murphy, a freelance creative from Milwaukee, started her own wellness apparel line with the mantra "Be sad; keep going." Words from a conversation with her mom before she died by suicide.

Suicide in Black Americans has been on the rise in recent years.

In 2020, it was the third leading cause of death among Black people ages 15-24. And for Black youth, suicide has increased faster than in any other racial or ethnic group over the last 20 years.

Since September 2022, WUWM has highlighted the issue of suicide in Black youth in conversations with doctors, mental health advocates and people who have struggled with suicidal ideation firsthand.

The conversation continues with a Milwaukee freelance creative named Marina Murphy.

Murphy has had her own struggles with her mental health — she was previously found to have major depressive disorder and anxiety. Her father had his own struggles. But Murphy lost her mom to suicide in 2017.

mother and daughter
Marina Murphy
Celisa "Lisa" Murphy holds a young Marina Murphy.

"In October 2017, I lost my mom to suicide, which from what we understand was a result of actually workplace harassment and kind of just being fed up with her environment at work and a lot of other things that I can imagine, but of course you just kind of speculate ‘cause you don't get the chance to really talk to that person anymore," she explains.

Murphy says her mom's death flipped her life on its head, but she found some sort of solace in at least one "gem" her mom left her with. "That was no matter what happens to me, ... you get to be sad, but you have to keep going."

An extended conversation with Marina Murphy.

And Murphy turned that into her own wellness apparelline — her latest creative endeavor.

Murphy describes herself as a freelance creative. She wears many hats. She is a dancer, a skater, a pet sitter and does some social media management.

Murphy has never discussed her mom's passing outside of her personal circles and says her mom was never the type to be really vocal about her mental health.

"To the point where I don't know — it was such a left field thing, right. Like I was aware of my dad’s mental health struggles and things that he dealt with, but she was not open about that at all. I probably barely even seen her cry if I’m honest. Maybe once or twice. Never seen her really be frustrated about much," she explains.

Murphy says her mom never complained — she was spiritual, she prayed a lot. "I didn't see her just kind of like be human, honestly, like she was very mechanical and very alright gotta get over it you know and Lord knows where she's learned that from, right," she says. "But I didn't see a lot of that from her, so to wake up, it was just like wake up on that day and know that she was no longer with us was mind blowing in more ways than one."

mother and daughter
Marina Murphy
Marina Murphy and her mom, Celisa "Lisa" Murphy.

Murphy acknowledges that sometimes just having a cry or just moving on from a tough situation can be how Black people, particularly Black women, handle stress — even if it isn't the healthiest.

Even though Murphy is still navigating complicated feelings surrounding her mom's death, she still finds ways to take care of her mental health.

She says everything helps.

"I knew initially when I first lost her, I was aware enough not to indulge or attach myself to anything heavily, right, so I literally, I didn't do drugs, I didn't drink alcohol ‘cause I knew it would just take me straight off the deep end," Murphy says.

She continues, "So, what I tried to do was cry a lot initially, right, and be very honest with people about what I need and it was a lot easier back then because it's the initial shock and everybody always feels sad for you, they feel sorry for you, they understand in some ways or can empathize with the weight of that loss, but time goes on and gets a little harder, right."

Murphy says she did a lot of crying, a lot of talking and went to therapy a couple of times. She did a lot of living in the moment and traveling.

"I think my mantra at one point was like 'Choose joy,' so whatever brought me joy in that moment that's what I focused on. If it was literally me at home chilling doing nothing that's what I was going to do unapologetically and not feel bad about that," Murphy says.

She was skating, dancing and spending time her with sorority sisters. One of them even moved in with her for a while. Murphy says that was a godsend.

"I just kind of threw myself into whatever kept me happy and made me joyful and continued to live that mantra out after time," she shares.


Teran is WUWM's race & ethnicity reporter.
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