By Jenise Jackson
Blog Content Contributor
Mental health conditions among black men has been a topic swept under the rug for many years. But just because something is avoided doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 18.6% of African Americans report living with a mental health condition but only 16.9% report using mental health treatment. Black men tend to avoid seeking help in their time of need due to cultural stigma. Some fear shame and ridicule, so they choose to suffer in silence. This is a trend that must end.
To help promote more men opening up about their mental health struggles, we first have to fight the bigger problem of stigma. Most of the black men I know grew up in homes where masculinity was ingrained into them. They were taught to be “strong” and not open up about their feelings or emotions. This is the reality for a majority of black men, so a lot of them reach adulthood thinking that they have to handle all their problems on their own. This is where some of the issue begins. Being honest about how you are feeling does not make you weak. Raising our black men to believe otherwise can be a real disservice to them. They may be having internal battles and can’t maintain their own mental health. One of the strongest things they could do is discuss their problems with someone who truly wants to help them.
Due to research done in the past, we have noticed that there are a substantial number of black men who get misdiagnosed or mistreated when it comes to their mental health. Even when showing the same symptoms as their white counterparts, studies show that black men tend to receive more serious psychological conditions. Most therapists tend to be white and not saying that they are bad therapists, but it probably would help black men if they saw therapists that resembled them. They might better relate with someone who understands what it is like to go through the struggles of life as a black man. Even I don’t know what it is like to live as a black man but from looking at what is happening in today’s world, I can paint a pretty accurate picture. From discrimination, to racial injustice and the list goes on, all this can take a toll on mental health. We say we want to make a change, well it can start with your brothers.
As a black woman who struggles with depression, I know how hard it can be to open up. But I also know being honest and receiving the necessary help can be one of the biggest reliefs. To work towards making a difference in my own community, I’ll be using the hashtag #IGotYou to connect with black men at Texas State who might be struggling with their mental health and just needs someone to talk to. You don’t have to make your struggles public, but it’s always nice to have someone who will just listen and try to get you the help you deserve. I’ve got your back if no one else does.
Featured illustration by Jenise Jackson.