As black men, cultivating mental toughness is a necessity for survival. June is Men’s Health Month as well as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) awareness month and when it comes to navigating the nuances of mental health, it is vital for special consideration to be given through the scope of the black male experience.
Depression is not a game and the depths of black men’s buried mental and emotional pain should be examined with a cultural analysis of how mental illness is perceived within the black community.
Why We Don’t Discuss It: There is a stigma attached to mental health care in the black community. The fear of being labeled “crazy” and negative perceptions surrounding “mental health issues” keeps many of us from seeking the help we need.
The Black Male Stereotype: For better or worse, being black and male has traditionally been juxtaposed with qualities of strength, hyper masculinity and indestructibility. This strong black man stereotype has caused a mental health disparity in our community.
These are just two of many reasons why
Black men have been forced to develop coping mechanisms to deal with the blunt force of their existence.
Removing The Stigma: Fortunately, the conversation around mental health has expanded within the black male community with influential figures like Charlamagne Tha God, Kendrick Lamar and Jay Z opening up the topic for public discussion.
Detroit based artist LeBrun Jackson has been very open about his struggles with depression. He channels that energy into a photography experience called The Melanated Male Pop Up: Capturing The True Color of Black Men.
The project seeks to visually represent the many facets of the melanated male, black men.
“We are told to man up, don’t cry, and stop acting like a punk from a very young age,” said LeBrun Jackson.
“From very early on, school age and even earlier for some of us, men have been conditioned to equate crying with weakness, and specifically, black males are drilled with this messaging even harder due to our history of oppression,” he told Men of Courage. “We’re trained up to suppress our emotions, and to never exhibit any signs of vulnerability. Unfortunately, we’re not given much of a way to cope with our pain, our worries, or our fears.”
Rarely does anyone tell black males it’s alright to cry or explain to us that crying is a way of navigating our emotions, comprehending them, expressing them, and pulling ourselves from under that which is weighing on us. In the midst of suffering our most painful and depressive thoughts, we’re simply told to suck it up.
Without a proper, healthy way to cope, our pain goes unresolved and cuts very deep into nearly every aspect of our lives and the lives of those around us.
Black men deserve the right to a safe space to emotionally express ourselves, cry if we need to, purge, and heal without ridicule, and without judgment.
Black men and boys should be protected at all cost. We are your fathers, sons, brothers, and future leaders. The trauma that is presented to black men as they live their lives should be more than studied, it needs to be stopped.
In the spirit of owning our healing this Men’s Health Month, check out this Men of Courage motivational video on cultivating the mental toughness necessary for survival: