Welcome to the fourth edition of The Intellects. Today I’m chatting with Bethany King, the presiding Miss Shaw University.

King, 25, is a senior. She is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration with a concentration in Management at Shaw, the first historically black university in the Southern United States.

Miss Shaw University is an aspiring entertainment lawyer. She also uses her platform to address the stigma of mental illness in her community.

King says her life changed drastically at the age of 12 when she lost her father to suicide. This forced her into a deep depression.

Although the Greensboro, North Carolina native is a suicide survivor, she says she has overcome many obstacles and is on the road to having a bright future.

For instance, King is a contestant for EBONY’s 2016-2017 HBCU Campus Queens online competition.

Q: So far, what is the highlight of your reign as Miss Shaw University 2016-2017? 

A: I’d say the highlight of my reign thus far as Miss Shaw University is breaking down the stigma of mental illnesses at Shaw University.

I hosted an event entitled “Heavy is the Crown” where I discussed my struggle with suicide and depression. It gave me a chance to be transparent with my peers as well as opening the door for them to express themselves about struggles they may deal with. It was a very liberating experience for myself because I spoke about very crippling experiences that I have survived and am proud to share because it has made me the queen I am today.

Q: I understand that you are a suicide survivor. What contributed to your suicidal attempt? 

A: I am a suicide survivor. When I was 12 my father committed suicide and it totally crushed me. It also changed my life in every aspect.

Becoming estranged from my brothers, I felt alone after coming from such a big house full of loving people. My father was also a pastor, so I lost faith in God because I didn’t understand why He would allow my father to become so weak.

I fell into deep depression and didn’t want to continue on with this lingering pain. But I knew I could not put my family through what my father put us through so I decided to talk to someone about these suicidal thoughts that I was experiencing.

Til this day, I still struggle with depression and anxiety but I have came a very long way. It’s always something that I may have to deal with but I am hopeful that I will concur with this just as I concured with everything else.

Q: What advice do you have for individuals who are struggling with mental health issues and may not have anyone to talk to about their problems? 

A: Giving advice to someone who may be suffering from a mental health issue is difficult because there isn’t a simple solution when getting help. I’d say never to give up. No matter what the situation is, there is always a solution. Give every possible opportunity a chance to help you because you never know what will be your ‪saving grace‬.

Q: Why do you think it is hard for African-Americans to admit they need help or mental health treatment? 

A: African-Americans are systemically crippled in many types of ways especially when it comes to health. It is very challenging to be black in today’s society and one thing that we try to avoid as a culture is being viewed as weak. There is so much pressure on being great or presenting an image of being resilient. We see mental illnesses as being a deterrent of that. Time and time again I’ve seen us turn to religion, trying to “pray away the demon of depression” or turn to drugs to escape from the pain but never has it became an open topic of discussion. It’s disheartening.

Q: Tell me more about Ebony Magazine’s HBCU Queens competition.

A: Ebony Magazine is a phenomenal African- American magazine that has been a pilar in the community for years. Every year they have a competition where they showcase the top 10 HBCU Queens from all over the country. To be able to win I must be voted into the top 10. Anyone can vote and it would be an honor to represent my university.

Q: What keeps you inspired on a daily basis?

A: My father and how he inspired so many people in his short life is what keeps me inspired daily. I know that he was a gift from God and I want to be able to carry on the legacy.

Q: What’s your favorite song or CD of 2016?

A: I have two albums for 2016. Solange’s “A Seat at the Table” and J. Cole’s “4 Your Eyez Only.”

Q: What would you like to add to this discussion? 

A: I truly appreciate the opportunity to be able to share my story and I hope that I inspire one person to keep the faith. I am grateful for every experience because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.