Hope for the hopeless

Croydon minister Julius Oghogho’s first book ‘You Are Not A Failure’ aims to help those struggling with depression

By Samantha Bambino

The Times

Samantha Bambino / Times Photo

Julius Oghogho, a Croydon-based minister, wants every person he encounters to understand one thing — they are not a failure.

Even if they lost their job and are living on the street, even if they are struggling to overcome a drug or alcohol addiction, and even if the thought of suicide constantly rears its ugly head, there is still hope.

Throughout his 21 years of ministry, two of which took place in Liberia, Oghogho has selflessly helped people from all walks of life rediscover their purpose through conversations, counseling and support. Though Oghogho enjoyed a front-row seat for countless stories of success, he wasn’t satisfied with his efforts. He wanted to help more people, both locally and internationally, but could only be in so many places at once.

In 2017, Oghogho made the decision to pen his first book, You Are Not A Failure, a compilation of personal and historical experiences meant to inspire positive thoughts in the reader. They can recognize that others have struggled with similar hardships, and found ways to grow rather than give up.

On Saturday, March 9 at the Croydon Fire Station, guests from Oghogho’s neighborhood, as well as Minnesota, Ohio, Maryland, New Jersey, New York and Connecticut, convened for the official launch of the book. With his creation available online through Amazon, Barnes & Noble and iTunes, Oghogho’s mission is to reach 1 billion readers.

“I look at culture and society, and see the societal ills, and I try to correct them in whichever way I can. That’s one of the reasons this book was written, to help different groups of people, different societal situations like the homeless, those that are dealing with depression, divorce,” he said. “The issue that I’m pretty much getting at in this book is people that have lost hope, people who consider themselves failures in life. I’m trying to tell them there is hope.”

Oghogho speaks to several key groups in You Are Not A Failure, including current and former alcoholics, those who are considering or already attempted suicide, those grieving the loss of a relative or spouse, and teens.

“The suicide rate is very, very high among young people,” he explained. “I tend to believe that those who commit suicide, or want to commit suicide, feel like there’s no need to continue living. So in this book, I tell them there’s a need to keep living. There’s something you can do.”

You Are Not A Failure is chock-full of stories from individuals Oghogho encountered who managed to rise up from rock bottom. One such person is a husband and father who was seconds away from taking his own life with a gun. He was addicted to drugs and alcohol, and saw no light at the end of the tunnel. According to Oghogho, just as he was about to pull the trigger, a friend called and spoke with him. Today, the man is a program director at a drug treatment facility in Minnesota.

“It was a phone call that saved his life. The thought always comes to me, what if there was somebody that had spoken to them just before they did it?” Oghogho said. “What if this book gets across to those who feel down, weary, or who just can’t get off drugs and alcohol and feel like they’re failures?”

In the book, Oghogho encourages readers to speak to a loved one or a mentor. During some time spent working with patients in a hospital and drug treatment facility, he witnessed many seclude themselves from the world. Parents didn’t want their children to see them in such a vulnerable state, and refused to have them visit. As a result, they were left alone in this strange environment with nothing but their negative thoughts.

The same sentiment is true for non-addicts, people who appear to have it all together. Oghogho said those who seem the happiest are often the most depressed. Many are not where they want to be in life, and are struggling with suicidal thoughts. Still, they refuse to share these feelings with others for fear of seeming weak. But in order for positive change to occur, communication needs to happen — something Oghogho has found to be more common in Liberia.

“The issues are there too, but it’s more prominent here. The reason? In Africa, they’re more community-oriented. You’re not going to be by yourself. There’s always going to be somebody talking to you, friends, relatives. Society is more individualistic here,” Oghogho said. “In America, you can be by yourself a lot if you choose to. And that increases the tendency for depression.”

As Oghogho celebrates the early success of You Are Not A Failure, he’s already getting started on his next two books. His goal is to write two a year for the next several years. Oghogho will also travel to Haiti multiple times during 2019 to spread his message to a new population, in addition to high schools throughout Philadelphia.

“I just desire to help people, and I’m looking for opportunities to help. That’s what I’m passionate about,” he said. “That’s the life I live, that’s what I love doing, that’s what I enjoy doing.”

Samantha Bambino can be reached at sbambino@newspapermediagroup.com