Tsanonda Edwards knows what it’s like to fight back when beaten down by life.
When he was 12 his father killed himself.
“I was going to a private school at the time,” said Edwards. “My father actually called us in February and told us he wasn’t able to afford it. Months later is when he committed suicide. For years I kinda took that on my shoulders that I was the reason why it happened.”
Of course he wasn’t, he found out later on his dad suffered from bipolar disorder and manic depression.
Like so many children who experience the trauma that comes with growing up in Baltimore—Edwards needed a place to go.
He found the Wylie Funeral home where he worked for several year.
The owner of the funeral home became a mentor to him, and when Edwards grew up his mentor told him and his friends to make something out of the old funeral home building.
“He sat us down and he kind of said we have all these people that are dealing with these issues,” said Edwards. “His question was very simple. What are you going to do about it?”
Now that space that was used to help people cope with the pain by saying goodbye gives children in West Baltimore a place to talk about and combat their mental health illnesses.
They reach kids from the ages of 5 to 17 and their families.
Michael Miller is one of the co-founders of Above It All with Edwards.
Miller has a similar story to Edwards, he was five when his father was shot five times in the chest and killed.
“Dealing with that at such a young age you know there’s a lot of times where you need people to step in,” said Miller. “I’m thankful because I had different types of father figures in my lifetime that actually stepped in even though I didn’t have a dad.”
The biggest lesson they teach is the power of positive thinking.
“You get up and speak life to yourself every day,” said Miller. “I’m great, I’m a great person I can do great things. It’s something simple as they say I’m not good at math I correct that no I’m great at math. Because now you you’re mind heard you say you’re great at math so you will approach math a lot different.”
They work to help the parents too.
In Edward’s book “The Extraordinary Mr. Nobody” he talks about how he’s dealt with his journey with mental health issues.
“You have so many people that have a stigma that are fighting this kind of stigma toward mental health. As long are we’re here we’re going to make sure we’re pushing the envelope with regards to mental health services and we’re open to receiving as many people to kind of work with us and heal themselves.”
Giving back to the future of a city that they’ve seen lose so much.
“Nothing is like that light bulb that goes off in a child’s head and you can see it when it happens you know exactly when it happens,” said Miller. “To know that you played a slight role in that there’s nothing like that.”