Quantcast

These Mental Health Advocates Are Empowering Black Men To Take Up Emotional Space

Black men on the importance of mental health.

Human Interest

Although major depressive disorder (MDD) is less common among African American men than white men, African American men with depressive symptoms often are misdiagnosed, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges. Depression, anxiety or any mental health issue amongst Black men is often dismissed or unaddressed in the Black community, which deeply affects the quality of life for Black people as an entirety. In fact, according to the U.S. News & World Report, the suicide attempt rates amongst Black teen males continue to rise in comparison to any other ethnic group and suicide still remains as the second leading cause of death between the ages of 10 to 38.

As we begin to break the stigma and create changes in our community by starting positive conversations and speaking up about mental health, we subconsciously create a safe space for young Black boys to relieve any feelings of loneliness, fear and hopelessness. xoNecole had the opportunity and pleasure of speaking with these powerful Black men across psychology, social work, and mental health advocacy about their personal journeys and advice for young Black men fitting the same shoes that they themselves have walked in.

A Black Man’s Mental Health and Stereotypes

Dr. Erlanger Turner/Instagram

We don't notice it off-rip, but societal norms and gender differences cause a disruption in how we should be dealing with mental health in its entirety. According to the Psychological Health Center of Excellence, "gender stereotypes are fixed ideas about men's and women's traits and capabilities and how they should comport themselves, based on their biological sex". Gender stereotypes are omnipresent in everyday life, but especially so in the realm of mental health and its impact on each gender.

"There are few stereotypes about Black men such as they don't have the capacity to express their feelings or emotions, they're angry or aggressive, or they're not monogamous. I think regardless of ethnicity or race, some men prefer not to be emotional or talk about their feelings," shares Dr. Erlanger A. Turner. The author, clinical psychologist, and assistant professor of psychology at Pepperdine University vocalizes his disagreement with these stereotypes by stating that most Black men do not fit into the categories given to them. "In regards to stereotypes of Black men, I think because of these perceptions Black men are assumed to have poor mental health and engage in unhealthy behaviors such as substance use or sex to cope with life."

He continues, "I do think that based on each man's views about adhering to ideals of masculinity, that it may influence their decisions about when and to whom do they express their emotional side." Unfortunately, pertaining to those ideals of masculinity, especially when diving into a deeper conversation about gender as a social construct, in the Black community, being vulnerable and honest about your emotional well-being is deemed as "soft", "weak", or "unmanly".

From The Womb To The Tomb

Osadeba Omokaro/Instagram

Osadeba Omokaro, co-founder of DEAD THE SILENCE, chimes in with a thought about his childhood and how gender roles play a part in his emotional well-being, "As a child, all the people that were around me that were emotional were feminine, and the more stoic individuals were manly. The interesting part of this is as an adult I believe men can be internally emotional yet remain unwavering as long as they truly process those emotions, but if a male has emotions yet cannot identify them, they are lost."

"As an adult I believe men can be internally emotional yet remain unwavering as long as they truly process those emotions, but if a male has emotions yet cannot identify them, they are lost."

Osadeba continues to reflect on his upbringing as a child and recalls that he was not initially encouraged to open up about his emotions. "I was told not to show my emotions from my brothers, OGs, girls and my dad," he says." It made me hard and a fighter."

Darian Hall/Instagram

"A lot of men are conditioned at a young age not to show emotion or express feelings. This follows many men into adulthood and manifests itself in various parts of our lives. There is a shift happening though, where men are realizing that holding everything in does not serve them," co-founder of HealHaus Darian Hall adds. As a Black man as well as a member of a Black fraternity, Kappa Alpha Psi, Darian realized the importance of creating a space for people of color in New York City to practice mental wellness and combating depression and anxiety.

"A lot of men are conditioned at a young age not to show emotion or express feelings. This follows many men into adulthood and manifests itself in various parts of our lives. There is a shift happening though, where men are realizing that holding everything in does not serve them."

On the impact of his childhood on his emotional structure as an adult, founder of The Lives of Men Jason Rosario ponders retrospectively about how his poorly-given childhood advice was transferred. "I think a lot of boys, not just me, received those messages directly and indirectly. What that does is separate us as men from our humanity and capacity to feel. When we get older, we've become so good at compartmentalizing and suppressing our emotions that we become emotionally repressed and unable to identify, much less articulate how we feel," he says.

Jason Rosario/Instagram

"I think a lot of boys, not just me, received those messages directly and indirectly. What that does is separate us as men from our humanity and capacity to feel. When we get older, we've become so good at compartmentalizing and suppressing our emotions that we become emotionally repressed and unable to identify, much less articulate how we feel."

As We Go On…

When coming into one's adulthood in today's society, men are oftentimes challenged of their manhood with financial and physical tasks such as taking care of their families by bringing home the primary source of income or lifting an old three-ton chiffarobe out of the basement. However, as a society, we have failed our Black men by not providing them with the proper safe space to express their mental health concerns to their friends, spouses, peers, colleagues or even conditioned them to believe that a therapist is an option.

"The fear that many Black men experience around expressing their feelings is rooted in mistrust, which goes back to the days of slavery. Black men were tortured, abused, and/or ridiculed for expressing their feelings," Dr. Randy "Dr. S" Sconiers states with historical context. Furthermore, he added that society continues to perpetuate those narratives by creating harmful stigmas around Black men expressing their feelings, thus being associated with weakness and inferiority. "For these reasons, Black men have been conditioned within systems such as schools and social constructs to hold feelings in order to be viewed as strong and manly. In other words, 'man up and keep your feelings inside.' That's totally wrong and damaging to the psyche of Black men."

Dr. S/Instagram

"Black men have been conditioned within systems such as schools and social constructs to hold feelings in order to be viewed as strong and manly. In other words, 'man up and keep your feelings inside.' That's totally wrong and damaging to the psyche of Black men."

The podcast host and founder of Mental-Hop also thinks about the impact of love, women, and romantic relationships on today's Black men. When asked by xoNecole about his thoughts on women expressing their lack of respect for a 'beta-male' or a man that wears his heart on his sleeve, Dr. S responds with, "I believe that kind of thinking by women only further harms the overall well-being of Black men."

Because men put so much stock into the feelings and thoughts of what women think, if there's a widely accepted consensus that women don't want a 'beta man', it only reinforces that they should not express themselves in order to be deemed as more attractive by the opposite sex. "Conversely, if a woman expresses that a man who expresses his feelings signifies a strength and attractiveness, men may ultimately see that as something to aspire to do more often."

The Next Generation…

Anthony Duncan/Instagram

'Train them up in the way that they should go,' is something I've been hearing all my life whether I overheard people talking to my mother about me and my siblings or church folk gathered around gossiping about the latest young people scandal. Everyone, from what I've experienced, takes this term as forcing a child to live the life that you'd want them to live as opposed to the emotional healthy, non-scarring life that they should. When asked by xoNecole if he had any advice to share with the next generation of young Black men about mental health and wellness disparities, Jason wants to remind them that they are simply enough. "That their existence alone makes them worthy of love, respect, compassion," he adds. "I want boys to grow up knowing that it's OK to access the full spectrum of their emotions because that along with their masculine essence is what makes them special."

"I want boys to grow up knowing that it's OK to access the full spectrum of their emotions because that along with their masculine essence is what makes them special."

Anthony Duncan, co-founder of DEAD THE SILENCE alongside Osadeba, pulls from his own tragic experience of the loss of his sister to give advice for the next generation of young Black men to emerge. "I was not able to show my emotions when my younger sister passed away from suicide. Everyone around me was heartbroken and I did not feel that I could express my emotions. I felt I had to be strong for others around me," Anthony shares with xoNecole. "I would like to teach them not to be afraid to express how they feel. Being strong is showcasing your vulnerability and being able to lead as well. Connection is key to communication and without it we do not have anything."

In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month and continuing to be the light he wishes to see in the world, HealHaus' Darian Hall is offering $10 off unlimited monthly live yoga and meditation classes for xoNecole readers. For seven days only, use the code: "xonecole" when you sign up on HealHaus.com.

Featured image courtesy of Darian Hall

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

Featured image by Shutterstock

Lawd, lawd. I'm assuming that I'm not being too presumptuous when I start this all out by saying, I'm pretty sure that more than just a few of us can relate to this title and topic. I know that personally, there are several men from my sexual past who would've been out of my space a lot sooner had the sex not been…shoot, so damn good. And it's because of that very thing that you'll never ever convince me that sex can't mess with your head. The oxytocin highs (that happen when we kiss, cuddle and orgasm) alone can easily explain why a lot of us will make a sexual connection with someone and stay involved with them for weeks, months, years even, even if the mental and emotional dynamic is subpar, at best.

Keep reading... Show less
The daily empowerment fix you need.
Make things inbox official.

"Black men, we're in constant warfare. Every day is a fight outside of my house, so why would I want to come home to more fighting when that is the very place where I should be resting? There are loved ones who I don't speak to as much anymore because they aren't peaceful people. A huge part of the reason why I am happier without my ex is she was rarely a source of peace. The older I get, the more I realize that peace really is the foundation of everything; especially relationships, because how can I nurture anything if I'm in a constant state of influx and chaos? Guys don't care how fine a woman is or how great the sex may be if she's not peaceful because there is nothing more valuable than peace. If the closest person to me is not a source of it, that can ultimately play a role in all kinds of disruption and destruction. No man wants that."

Keep reading... Show less

This article is in partnership with Staples.

As a Black woman slaying in business, you're more than likely focused on the bottom line: Serving your customers and making sure the bag doesn't stop coming in. Well, there's obviously more to running a business than just making boss moves, but as the CEO or founder, you might not have the time, energy, or resources to fill in the blanks.

Keep reading... Show less

When Ngozi Opara Sea started Heatfree Hair almost a decade ago, curly and kinky extensions weren't the norm on the market as they seem to be today, especially if you wanted those textures in quality human hair. Beauty supply stores mainly sold synthetic curly hair, and there was a surge of renewal for women who were just beginning to embrace natural styles, taking to YouTube to experiment with new techniques and styles.

Keep reading... Show less

No one is excited about paying taxes, but for the most part, they're unavoidable for the working woman. Yet, not everyone has to pay quarterly taxes. You may have to get acquainted with quarterly taxes depending on how you earn money and who signs your paychecks. Not only is it essential to know if you should pay quarterly tax payments, but you need to know what your tax liability is and the deadline to submit your taxes — unless you want the IRS visiting.

Keep reading... Show less
Exclusive Interviews

Exclusive: Find Confidence With This Summer Workout Created By A Black Woman For Black Women

Tone & Sculpt trainer Danyele Wilson makes fitness goals attainable.

Latest Posts