Altease Ramsey knows what it’s like to battle depression and he’s now helping others in the same stormy boat.
The poet, rapper and mental health advocate has a new “You Matter” campaign. Ramsey is a 26-year-old Moline High School graduate, who works at Bad Boyz Pizza, and hopes to sell 50 new “You Matter” T-shirts at $25 each. The sales will be split between making a music video of Ramsey’s song “You Matter,” and for Foster’s Voice and Gray Matters Collective — nonprofits that work together on suicide prevention in the region.
“We’re gonna shoot a music video, with a special scene for the people who bought shirts,” he said Monday, noting the filming will be on June 3 at Heart of Hope, 1740 9th Ave., Rock Island, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. That day will include food, games and a dunk tank.
The song lyrics include:
Especially on the days you feel worthless
because I know you are made with a purpose
I don’t like to get “religious” because I know not everybody believes and I’m not here to cause debates with you
I just want to let you know you matter
because I believe in a creator who took his time in creating you”
“I’ve battled depression for most of my life and for the last seven years I have been lost in life because I believed I didn’t matter,” Ramsey said. “I’m finding my worth and I hope to be a light for others as well.”
Working together to stop suicide
He’s been active in Foster’s Voice and Gray Matters Collective for a couple years.
“They invited me to a couple of their events and we just kinda had the same common goals, same belief system and just bonded like a family,” Ramsey said Monday. “I’ve been a board member, involved in schools and I’ve learned a lot and was able to do a lot for them.”
He did a TEDx Davenport in 2019 at the Figge Art Museum, Davenport, on pressing on through depression (Watch it HERE).
A Chicago native, Ramsey was raised by a single mother, who passed away when he was 19, after being on dialysis. “In a sense, we all knew it was coming but like, you still can’t prepare for it,” he said Monday.
Ramsey also has the skin condition vitiligo (which affected Michael Jackson), and that also drove his depression, he said.
The family he found with Foster’s Voice and Gray Matters has served as kind of counseling, he said. Performing as a poet and rapper gave Ramsey a positive outlet for his expression.
“That’s why I wanted to take it deeper, because I’ve started to see the impact when you’re vulnerable and you tell your story, you never know what people are going through or what other people’s stories are,” he said.
“More often than not, I mean, we’re all human beings and we’re one way or another going through the same type of struggle,” Ramsey said. “I think it’s just being willing to share your story to make that impact for others.”
He had a cousin in Chicago a few years who died by suicide, he said.
“A couple of people in the Quad-City area that I was friends with, that decided to take their own life a few years back as well. And that just kind of adds to the motive,” Ramsey said.
Suicide is a serious public health problem in the U.S., according to the CDC. After two straight years of declines in suicide (47,511 deaths in 2019 and 45,979 in 2020), 2021 data indicate an increase in suicide to 48,183, nearly returning to the 2018 peak (48,344), according to a February 2023 report.
That far outpaces all homicides in the U.S., which were 26,031 in 2021, the CDC said. Suicide is the third leading cause of death for ages 10-19 and second leading cause of death for ages 20-34.
Haley DeGreve, Gray Matters president and co-founder, just was the keynote speaker April 29 at a Zero Suicides Conference in Elko County, Nev.
Shining a light
Ramsey wrote his “You Matter” song about a year ago (it’s not yet been recorded), and the T-shirt notes the Gospel of Matthew 5:14, which says, “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden.” ‘, and the T-shirt notes the Gospel of Matthew 5:14, which says, “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden.”
“I’m realizing how important it is to show my light and I want others to see the light and also show the light and that really not only do you matter, but you have a light that you’re supposed to shine,” Ramsey said. “I really wanted to get that message out and give people a chance to actually support the mission and the music.”
He said his Christian faith has helped give him strength, but Ramsey believes you don’t need to be religious to persevere.
“I just understand that not everybody believes. So I try to be respectful, but I don’t try to hide my faith for others,” he said. “I try to let people know, I believe God works. So he’s gonna work with people how he needs. I do my part and try to shine a light.”
Ramsey compared emerging from dark times to the caterpillar who goes through a dark cocoon to emerge as a bright butterfly.
“The caterpillar is never aware of the butterfly that it has inside of them,” he said. “And so it gets through that transitional period. So my message would be — hang in there through the cocoon because what’s coming after is gonna be much greater than what you’re experiencing or what you’re going through.”
To order a “You Matter” shirt, click HERE.
If you are having thoughts of suicide, call or text 988, the national Suicide & Crisis Lifeline. It provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals. Find more information about the Lifeline HERE.