Mothers of African American Male Millennials is in its nascent stages, but Eaton, who also has a full-time job, has big plans. She’d like to offer peer-to-peer counseling and group support to affected mothers. She’d also like to build a crisis team that can meet mothers where they are both emotionally and physically by coming to them in the hospital or wherever they find themselves when their sons are in distress.
Eaton has a long way to go to achieve this, but she is committed to this work — and she has the background to set her up for success.
Eaton graduated high school and started at a local community college in 1988 but postponed higher education when she became pregnant with her son, Devan, that first semester.
She promised herself she’d go back when her children graduated high school. So, she worked; she had her second son, Kevin, three years after Devan; and she moved to Ohio. Eventually, she returned to North Carolina, where she made good on her promise and enrolled in an associate program in psychology (which has since been retired) at University of Phoenix (UOPX). She’d hated high school, but she found college was a different beast — and one she loved.
She also loved learning about psychology. Her childhood brush with mental illness via her mother gave her a familiarity with it that blossomed into a passion for learning more. She went on to earn her bachelor’s degree in human services in 2016 (the program has since been retired), and then earned her master’s degree at another university.
While Eaton was checking all the boxes on her bucket list, however, Kevin suffered a setback. He’d enrolled in college but withdrew due to a health problem during his first semester. While he was able to resolve his medical concern, he wasn’t able to afford a return to college. This is when Eaton observed his emotional decline. Over the following eight months, she says, he grew depressed and withdrawn.
One night, he had an argument with his then girlfriend. Things grew heated and, Eaton says, “out of anger, he just stabbed himself. … He couldn’t stop the bleeding.”
Kevin ended up in the hospital, where he was patched up and asked if he’d ever had thoughts of self-harm before. When he admitted he had, he was taken to a psychiatric facility — and that was when Eaton was left standing bereft in the hospital hallway.