Damien Rozell Pope Jr is a 24-year-old black man from Richmond, California who is a poet, mental health advocate, and aspiring therapist. He is a younger brother and son who has been responsible in supporting his mother with her mental health challenges for the last 13 years.
I am a passionate individual and artist who seeks to motivate and inspire individuals around me by speaking life into them. Damien is someone who can light up the room when he enters, has great compassion for all issues, and is always a student in every space seeing more knowledge and understanding. He has a deep love for his family, friends, and community and is continuously looking for ways to improve the situation and provide support in any way possible.

Damien has personally experienced mental health struggles throughout multiple stages of his and has witnessed family membbers go through similar challenges. In middle school, due to the manifestation of his mother’s mental illness, Damien isolated himself from family and friends and believed that he had no one’s support in those moments. In high school when his mother stopped taking her medication her mental health rapidly deteriorated, Damien’s health began deteriorating as well. He began his first battles with depression in sophomore and junior years of high school. He slowly started to stop attending classes and his grades began to drop. He felt a sort of cognitive dissonance of wanting to improve my situation but being unable to do anything to change it. I have a poem that I wrote in high school that perfectly captures my feelings at the time. It’s called, This empty feeling.
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<strong>“This Empty Feeling” </strong>

So it just so happens that I’m sitting here…
I’m sitting here trying to write my first stand up poem,
But it’s as if my brain has turned to mush and the goop that once filled my brain as thoughts is spilling out of my body but… that’s not what this poem is about,
No, this poem is about me rambling on about my inexperience when it comes to writing poems. No, this poem isn’t even a poem this is just me trying to write as a form of relief from this grief that transgresses upon me each and every day as if it chose me as it’s host to infest and consume.
But again, I digress…
Every single day I wonder what I am going to do about my problems, but my problems are just that, mine and the other 8 billion people in this world have no clue what demons I have to tangle with every hour… but again I digress.
For this poem was not written to bring sympathy for myself. No. It was written to bring awareness.
Yes, for I am now aware of this empty feeling growing within me engulfing my aspirations and goals into nothingness.
Converting my feeling that I am destined for greatness into a fear that I am destined to remain constant.
Unable to do anything, to control my path, my destiny, my life, or my future.

This poem to me was a great peek into my mind at the time and expresses how troubled I was at the time and although I didn’t know it at the time, I was depressed. Damien’s journey through mental health challenges has been profoundly shaped by the support of a caring teacher and a mental health counselor during his high school years. Despite not graduating, their support provided a vital space for him to express his struggles, especially given the mental health issues within his family. His mother’s battle with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, along with his uncle’s autism and Tourette’s, deeply impacted Damien from a young age. He was the primary support for his mother through numerous episodes and rehabilitations, starting when he was just 11. This responsibility, coupled with the loss of his father, led to Damien’s own struggles with anxiety, fear of abandonment, and functional depression, particularly exacerbated by a stressful, unfulfilling job.

Damien’s path to overcoming these challenges involved seeking therapy, developing healthy coping mechanisms, and leaning on his spirituality. Therapy helped him unpack his distress and develop strategies to combat depression, while emotional and spiritual support from friends, family, and church played a crucial role. This multifaceted support system allowed Damien to transform his pain into a testimony of resilience. Today, he is motivated to advocate for mental health, support his mother, and pursue a career as a licensed therapist or social worker. His improved relationships and continued therapy highlight his progress, and he hopes his journey inspires others facing similar struggles to persevere and seek the support they need.