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A Brother Lost to Suicide Lives on in 'The Beautiful'

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Losing a family member to suicide is tough. It’s a hard and painful experience. Oftentimes family members wonder “what could I have done to help them?” Some don’t even realize their loved one was battling a mental illness. Either way it goes, it’s hard. When your loved one has gone away, grief comes into the equation. People have different ways of coping when they lose someone they love to suicide. Some people cry a lot. Some express anger, rage, emptiness or guilt. But when Alfred Banks lost his brother to suicide, he coped through his music.

Who is Alfred Banks? Well that’s what I wondered one day when I got a direct message from him. I’m a mental health advocate and I write articles all the time about depression, suicide and my own previous battles with it. Because of this, I’ve grown accustomed to some people reaching out to me saying they have read one of my articles, but never someone from my own city. It just so happens both Alfred and I are from New Orleans.

One day a few months ago, Alfred and I decided to meet in person to talk about mental health. When we spoke I learned about his brother Orlandas Banks. Orlandas had schizophrenia for years and eventually he ended his own life. To keep his brother’s memory alive, Alfred created an album called “The Beautiful.”

This album is all about his brother’s battle with schizophrenia and suicide. I thought this was a really beautiful way to keep his brother’s memory alive and also bring awareness to both suicide and schizophrenia. The first single to his album called “The Funeral Of Orlandas Banks” is about the day of the funeral and the emotions Alfred felt that day. It’s a really great song and the single is out now for all to listen. Below are some questions I asked Alfred about the single and about his brother.

How long did it take you to come up with the concept of this song? How hard was it for you to write it, and then perform it in the studio?

Alfred: “I had the beat for ‘The Funeral of Orlandas Banks’ for about a year. It was a beat that my producer, CZA, used for a beat battle. I could never write to it until I started working on the album. Didn’t take long to write, but it was difficult to recapture the feelings I felt while looking at my brother in the casket. The session was emotional but luckily the engineer, A. Levy, is someone I’m comfortable enough to express those feelings around.”

What made you want to do this album? Why does this album mean so much to you?

Alfred: “Losing my brother Orlandas was the spark. Before that, the album had a different direction. My brother represented me so much. He told everyone he knew about me and my music. So when he passed, I felt I had to represent him, because he was such a dope rapper and an even better human being. I felt the world should know about his life, struggles and be open to finding out about other stories of people who struggle with schizophrenia and other mental disorders.”

When is the official release date for the album?

Alfred: “‘The Beautiful’ comes out March 20th, 2017! You can download the album on and on all music outlets as well.”

What do you want people to get out of listening to ‘The Beautiful?’

Alfred: “I want people to know mental illness is a real struggle. The story I tell in ‘The Beautiful’ is about 90 percent autobiographical. I don’t have schizophrenia myself, but I tell the story from the perspective that I do using all the conversations I had with my brother Orlandas. I want the conversation to be brought up and for people not to be ashamed to talk about it. There are a lot of people who suffer and they need public support in knowing they are not alone.”

How old was your brother when he died? How does his suicide attempt still affect you to this day?

Alfred: “Orlandas Banks was 34 when he passed. His death affects me every day in the simple fact I miss him.”

How long was he battling schizophrenia?

Alfred: “Well, I knew of his battle for about three years. I was told from my other brother James, it had gone on for well over seven to eight years. He was gone out of our lives for 10 years from 2003-2013 and during that time is when he developed schizophrenia.”

What do you want people to know about suicide?

Alfred: “Make sure you tell people you love them and make sure it’s known they aren’t going through their issues alone. Be comforting and lend an open ear as much as you can, because once suicide creeps up as an option, it’s hard to come back from that mind frame.”

How important is mental health to you?

Alfred: “Mental health should be a topic everyone should be well-versed in. People everywhere have a friend or family member who struggles with some form of mental illness and they should know how to deal with it for sure. It’s an unfortunate part of life but it is a part of life. It shouldn’t be pushed under the rug anymore.”

What would you say to people afraid to get help?

Alfred: “I would say please take a chance and get help in whatever way you feel comfortable. From counseling to creative outlets to medication, you can find ways to manage your issues. And know other people are dealing with the same issues, so you’re not alone.”

Any closing remarks you want the viewers to know? Any interesting facts?

Alfred: “I hope people enjoy ‘The Beautiful.’ It was three years in the making and I’m really excited about the album finally coming out. I took a terrible situation and made something really beautiful from it and I think Orlandas would be proud.”

To learn more about Alfred and his album “The Beautiful” visit

You can listen to the  first single to the album “The Funeral Of Orlandas Banks” here.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.

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Originally published: January 31, 2017
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