Like the rest of the world, I woke up to the news that Titi Branch, co-founder of Miss Jessie’s, had died at the age of 45. Shockingly the reason given by most media outlets was suicide by way of asphyxiation. Immediately the natural hair and beauty community flooded Instagram, Twitter and other social media outlets with condolences, expressions of happy memories of Titi and acknowledgements of the huge impact she had on the rise of natural hair care products and hair going mainstream.
Miss Jessie’s was one of the first black-owned natural hair care companies to get picked up by and ink deals with Target and other national chains. With its high price point and proclamation that it makes the “best darn curl creams,” Miss Jessie’s is a brand that natural women everywhere hate to love. This is the first big loss for the natural hair community since its resurgence in recent years and it definitely hurts. Ms. Branch’s death has shined a glaring spotlight on mental illness, depression and suicide. Last night as my girlfriends and I were talking about the reports of Titi’s death, one asked the question of did it seem that we are hearing of more and more suicides lately. Most of the rest of us agreed that while we are hearing about them more it is probably not necessarily because it is happening more often but is because the media is giving it more attention and social media helps to spread news quickly.
The news of anyone committing suicide is always surprising to me and by hanging it is even more shocking, no matter how often I hear of it happening. It is something that I may never understand, but that I’ve learned no to judge. Women are taught they can do it all and on the surface it probably looked to outsiders that both Branch sisters had everything a girl could ever dream of. However, mental illness, like any other illness, knows no bounds and can take anyone prisoner. If you are having suicidal thoughts or need to talk to someone, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.