Yeah Doctor, Everything’s Fine: The Denial of Black Men’s Mental Health
I remember like it was yesterday, It was October 2015 and I was working towards my Master’s Degree in Atlanta Georgia. I was writing a paper for an English course when my mind went totally blank. It was around 3AM in the morning, and I had been up for a full 24hrs without sleep. This was not unusual because for the past few years I had dealt with not being able to obtain proper sleep. As I sat in front of my computer my shoulders lowered and I let out a loud yell. Not caring about the people that lived next to me, I felt that I had no control over my yell and needed to let it out. I didn’t know what was wrong with me, but I felt a feeling of relief afterwards. What I experienced went on to change my life forever and how I see the world and black men’s mental health
The next day I told a friend of mines who was also a black male what I had experienced while writing a course paper. He stared at me for a brief second and said “honestly man the same thing happened to me about two months ago” He told me that his mother had recently passed and that he had been struggling to cope with it and that he had to take a year off from school. To look at him, I would have never known this because he seemed to have everything in order. Later on that day I met with two black male classmates at a local bar to enjoy a few beers and watch sports. I brought up my yelling event and they both looked at me with the same look my previous black male friend had.
They both began to tell me stories about how either school was stressing them out or how a past relationship had crushed them emotionally. As I sat there listening to their stories I began to think of the difficulties that black men face in this world when it comes to expressing themselves. For me, college had emotionally detached me from the world while family and relationships issues seemed to be their overall stressor. As we all traded stories, I asked had either of them reached out to a doctor to discuss their stress and depression. They both looked at me and shook their heads no. The answer was no for me as well. Growing up as a black man in America, it is often frowned upon to discuss your mental status with doctors out of fear of being labeled as crazy. We are often times forced to hide our emotions and overlook the things that depresses us.
As I drove back to my apartment that night, I began to think how we were all in denial of our mental health. Our careers and achievements had covered up our emotions and also the daily obstacles of black men in America. I searched online later that night and found that many black men throughout the world have suffered with being in denial of their mental health. To look at these men, some were doctors and some were everyday hardworking factory men, nobody would have ever known the battles they faced within themselves. As I read each black mans testimony, I noticed something that we all had in common. None of us had visited a doctor to open up about depression or other concerning mental matters.
As a young black man in the United States, I want to send a message to other black men around the world that it is okay to seek help when something seems wrong mentally. For years we have had to deal with the pressure of not expressing ourselves because America has forced us to deal with our problems through drugs, alcohol, the mistreatment of women, the killing of our own brothers etc. Whether you are in college or working on creating your own business, as a black man it is important to be mentally stable to deal with everyday life pressures. I encourage you all to speak to other black men about things that bother you and seek help as a unit because there is power in numbers.
If you think you need help from a professional then use BetterHelp.com to find a therapist that works for you.
Image by Mychal Denzel Smith
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