My name is Dana Quamina. I am originally from Brooklyn New York, but born in Queens. My mom is from St.Lucia and my dad is from Grenada. Even went to go live with my grandmother for some time in St.Lucia, where I learned what it was like to grow up in the islands. I'm a registered nurse who has a natural love for people, while also having a desire to always learn something new in the nursing profession. I received my bachelor's degree in nursing after leaving the military (army), but my first nursing job was in a clinical decision unit (an extension of the emergency room where patients typically go home the same day or after 24hrs).
Once I finally got my chance to be an ICU nurse, I realized that this specialty was what I originally needed to help me feel like I was not just clocking into a job. Plus it made me forget about my episodes of depression while I was at work. ICU nursing can be challenging at times, but it gave me the adrenaline that I needed to help me forget about the world and focus on the importance of a medication or the attention to detail needed in a specific order given to me by a doctor.
1. So where did my inspiration to write your book/journal come from?
The answer is simple. God. My goal was NEVER to actually write it. I knew that my story needed to be heard but I also knew that I was VERY ashamed of my story. I knew that I was no longer heavily suicidal, but I also knew that I was not interested in telling what I went through or how God helped me to overcome it. I just wanted to live in my bubble and exist while I explored life. But how many of us know, that once God gives you an assignment and you reject it, he shapes your universe so that every bit of existence around you screams your assignment.
I would normally only watch self-development and affirmation videos on YouTube. But now the YouTube algorithm was showing me “How to write a journal,” “Ways to get your book/journal published,” and “How to create a book and place it on Amazon.”
Mind you, I never searched for these things at all.
2. What was your first experience with mental health? When did you realize you wanted to become an advocate? It can be personal or an experience of someone close to you.
The tragedy of Cheslie Kristie occurred and I remember watching the documentary on Red Table Talk when her mother came to the show to speak. I remember crying the whole episode. All I knew was that when suicide is an option and no longer just a thought, we just want the pain to ABRUPTLY STOP and have just an ounce of peace. Many people just don’t understand that this is really what the issue is. so this moment was my first yes to God. But it didn’t necessarily mean that I took it seriously. Meaning, it's like your mom telling you to wash dishes, you listen and you do it but it's only done because it's a chore of the house, not because your heart initiated it and was determined to carry out this chore.
My mental health journey was a living rollercoaster. My heart was full of unforgiveness towards myself or others, regret, guilt, and self-hatred. Now add depression and anxiety on top of all of that and what you have is a woman that is literally a ticking time bomb. However, I was not the average ticking time bomb, I had the face of joy amongst others but deep down my heart was drowning in a sea of unworthiness.
3. Could you share with us one tip you have for black women that struggle with their mental health?
Tip: don’t listen when people say that suicide can’t be prevented.
This is false, what a lot of people are not aware of is that Most of the time, that person just needs a different perspective. A mind reset and an example of a shred of hope.
Perspective and hope have to be presented for the mindset to change.
4. What are your thoughts on the current state of the “mental health advocate” community? What do you believe should be changed to help more people?
As a community, we can prevent suicide. But we also have to understand that suicide is preventable but never predictable. Suicide victims can be secretive about when it will happen, but we slip up as to giving the heads up about the actual decision to do it.
What does this mean? It means we drop the ball somewhere about the final decision. For me, it was always wanting to sleep on the floor. I would be at slumber parties with friends and refuse to sleep on a bed. Because it confirmed that I was ready to go. The closer to the floor I was, it gave me peace to know, it was almost time.
So what needs to change?
There needs to be the understanding that
Suicide victims like myself can be fully functional. Meaning we can and will be the life of the party. The reason is that when we do this we forget about our own pain. But once alone, we spiral right back into full-blown depression.
And as African Americans, we are so used to normally being disregarded/discriminated against or seen as dramatic that we have conditioned ourselves that life is supposed to be this way. So we convince ourselves to smile and be merry because we have been through this since our ancestors existed.
5. Is there anything that you are working on currently or look forward to publishing next?
Currently, I am working on a clothing line (Amare Dynasty), the clothing line brings to the forefront the awareness of mental health for women, helping them understand that having to deal with their mental health and which heels to put on with an outfit for the event is just too overwhelming. We encourage dresses and sneakers for the woman that has been through it all. The clothing line will be on the runway for fashion week in New York City (Sept 7-10).
Buy Dana's book here!
Follow her Instagram: Thinkmentalfashion
Amare Dynasty: amaredynasty.com