"Boys don't cry" is an African American proverb that serves as law in a black household.
Black men are taught that their emotions are something to be ashamed of at a very young age, leading to a deadly epidemic among African American men.
It's understandable that this theology could lead to two very different outcomes: toxic masculinity or the loss of masculinity all together. This mindset is harmful to not only their demographic, but to the African-American community as a whole. The pressure to "just be a man about it" leaves a number of black men to suffer in silence while we blissfully ignore their cries for help.
When we fail to address the need for mental wellness and stability amongst black men, we deny them the opportunity to live life at its fullest potential. Although black women suffer from depression more than any other demographic, the emotional health of black men is also important part of the conversation. Big Sean is among the men breaking the stigma around mental illness, and recently announced that he would cut his tour short to focus on gaining emotional stability.
"[I] had some things to work out in my head," he said. "I never really took the time out to nurture myself, to take care of myself. It took me a lot of depression having a lot of anxiety to realize something was off."
It's been proven that social injustices and poverty have a direct correlation to the level of substance abuse and violence that is prevalent among black communities. This fact leads me to wonder if we've neglected black men as they relate to the discussion about depression and anxiety.
These mood disorders are taboo in the black community due to the fact that hey are often a sign of weakness or vulnerability. In all actuality, they are exactly the opposite. When a man is brave enough to confront his emotional trauma, he can then find the tools to heal and operate at his maximum potential. The Finally Famous rapper ending his tour so abruptly was his way of utilizing his own tools for self-care.
Big Sean says that although he regrets disappointing his fans, he realized that he could no longer attempt to pour from an empty cup. Regardless of the backlash he would receive because of the announcement, the rapper understood that his recovery was most important.
"I've been getting myself together, getting my mind right. So I have been taking better care of myself and...not only am I bringing my best self to the music but I'm bringing my best self to the table, to my city, to my fans, to the people who are about me."
Big Sean's admission is not the first time a rapper has been open about his issues with depression and anxiety. Even icons like Tupac and Biggie talked about suicide in their raps, so why is it that black men are still not apart of the conversation about mental illness?
Addiction and substance abuse have run rampant among men in my family in the past and I've wondered if this fact would remain if help or therapy was easily accessible to them at a younger age. Depression and anxiety are major issues that affect men and women of all walks of life, and does not discriminate. It's time that we get hip to the idea that black men experience depression, too.