Mental health in the African American community is a taboo topic to say the least. From early on we are taught not to express problematic issues that plague us whether it be encounters with pedophilia, drug addicted parents, verbal/ physical abuse or environmental stressors that act as sleeping giants and fester in our minds and burden our souls. This stigma perpetuates black men the most because from as early as they are able to remember, black men are taught and expected to not express their true feelings for it is a sign of weakness.
Could you imagine the mental and emotional turmoil one would experience if at any sign of displaying raw emotion you were labeled as weak? That if you went to see a therapist to talk about personal grievances, the question of your masculinity comes into play. Better yet, living in a world were you are hunted as prey and instead of having “normal” fears you now have to be fearful of those who promised to protect you at all cost.
These factors create the perfect recipe for the calm before the storm. What we have unknowingly created is a sequence of events that translates into a mindset of skewed thinking in the way we nurture the black male which turns them mentally and emotionally dead from conception. Sooner than later we witness the birth of a damaged individual who has been taught to harbor their pain and in return it anchors them just as the likes of dead weight. This serves as the caveat to undiagnosed mental issues that are discovered long after it becomes to late.
Our tendency as parents in the African American community as it relates to our males is to only focus on breeding harden and “real” males so much so that we neglect to allow our sons to have a voice. Instead we cultivate the notion that he must suffer in silence because we are afraid of the stigma that comes with being labeled or out of our own selfish views we treat the black male as our subservient counter partner.
So the question is how do we become productive in tackling such a broad issue? Simple - in order to kill a tree you have to attack it from the roots. This is beyond just encouraging our men to seek therapy. While its is my professional opinion to agree that therapy does work, I also understand that the most valuable information that Black men can receive starts from the womb, within his family make up, his environmental surroundings, his educational advantages, ensuring that he has the same advantages economically as the next man regardless of his race and most importantly having the genuine love and support from his partner that lifts and builds him along the way to instill faith and courage into him from the lowest to the highest of times. Until we are able to grasp this concept mental health issues as it relates to the black male will continue to be the pink elephant in the room.
Article written by Dominique McGehee, a Mental Health Therapist in Baton Rouge, La.