The question many are asking is how such a young and accomplished person who inspired so many could at the same time be engaged in such a personal battle to maintain balance to the point that his desire to die outlasted his desire to continue? And, how could something like this happen without anyone around seemingly having a clue about what was going on with young Marshawn? My response is although I didn't know Marshawn, I can say confidently that this type of problem is probably more widespread than you think. Most people who engage in activism work on any level understand that the work requires a lot of energy. Any work that requires you to go against the grain of society, and when you are an activist for justice that is exactly what you are doing, is going to require you to face a ton of obstacles. This is even more true when that work involves organizing dispossessed communities e.g. the African and other peoples of color, the houseless community, transgender folks, etc. These communities are disaffected from the dominant society. They are constantly attacked, to the point of reoccurring trauma becoming the norm. The energy you are going to need to do the work you are going to have to generate on your own and the work you do will largely go undetected, even by the people you are working with. In fact, if you are really someone who steps out and does outstanding work, as all indications appear Marshawn did, you can be prepared to receive very little consistent help, and a ton of well meaning, but very high maintenance people around you in your life. Operating under these extremely stressful dynamics, coupled with all of the other dysfunctional aspects of this society that activists and organizers aren't immune from, I can imagine young Marshawn might have taken the approach that many people adopt in this society. Take blow after blow, and keep trying to maintain your balance and move forward. Put on a smile, as people said he always did, and keep trying to negotiate the tidal waves coming after you. Unfortunately, this approach may appear to work for a time, but it will never work for the long haul.
The results of trying to keep putting out energy while receiving very little in return results in people becoming depressed and alienated. Serious activism work is very lonely. If you are consistent and successful at getting major work done, if you can move people in mass to achieve positive goals, its great for the communities you work with, but for you, it is probably going to set you up for consistent doses of that depression and alienation. Most people struggle to accomplish even the most basic of tasks to get through the day. Having a healthy relationship with one person is a challenge for many in this society. Being able to maintain a job and get through the day is a lot. If you are perceived as being able to consistently drive high quality work and accomplish difficult objectives on a consistent basis, most people assume you don't need support and/or encouragement. They assume you are here to inspire and support them, not the other way around. You end up becoming everyone's major source of energy and you are left with not even having anyone who you can express your fears and concerns. Maybe this is some of what young Marshawn faced, maybe not. What is universally true is we have to get much better at learning how to take pieces of the work and hold them, to the best of our ability. We have to get better at valuing people and the contributions they make and not seeing the work simply as a mechanism to empower us through our individual challenges in life. We have to get better at seeing people, all people, and not just thinking we are the ones who need support. Everyone needs support. No matter how strong and put together they appear to you. Believe it. They need to be told they are valuable people. They need to know that you are there for them. They deserve your loyalty and commitment as much as you deserve theirs. We have to do all of these things because doing them is how we cultivate community and community is what we need. Community is what's lacking in the work right now. Like everything in this backward capitalist society, the work today is dominantly individualistic and isolationist. We have to change that. We have to learn how to create collective environments where people like Marshawn have people they can talk to who can embrace and encourage them. Direct them to sources, qualified sources, who can help them address any problems they are having difficulty navigating through. This is what a healthy community looks like. This is what a socialist community looks like.
So, if we want to do something about what happened to young Marshawn why don't we start by deciding today that we will think as much about how we can change ourselves to reach out to someone as we think about wanting someone to reach out to us? Let's think about how we can make a contribution as much as we talk about someone else needing to do something. Post on social media something you are doing to help build capacity instead of just criticizing the work of others and/or expressing empty opinions that you have no work you are doing to support. Think of someone who is always offering support to people. Call that person and invite them to lunch or coffee/tea. I guarantee you that if you do, you will be the only person reaching out to this high energy/profile person. Even if all you can do is buy them a $1.00 cup. Tell someone making a difference that you see them. Encourage people and stop letting the slightest problems derail you. If you want to help a doer like Marshawn, figure out ways you can help people like him and make a personal commitment to be present, all the time, even when the work gets tough. If we start to seriously do these types of things we will foster the type of healthy environment we need. Something like what happened to young Marshawn can be avoided if we try just a little harder to pay more attention to each other.