For most black men, discussing mental health is a taboo subject. Mental health is the large white elephant in the room that black men tend to ignore. Black men who choose to ignore their mental health do so at their own peril and often to the detriment of their families. It is time to have a frank conversation about mental health in the black community.
There is a strong stigma attached to mental health issues in the black community. Studies show that five to ten percent of African American men will develop some form of depression during their lifetime. However, black men do not trust the mental health system and that prevents them from seeking the help they so desperately need. Further, there are not enough culturally competent providers of colour for the many black men who need help. In many instances, black men forgo care because they do not have the relevant insurance coverage or financing (Ward & Mengesha, 2013; Whaley, 2004).
Early intervention is critical when it comes to the mental health of black men. It is therefore important to reach black boys before they become men. Once the idea that men do not seek help for mental health issues are entrenched, it is difficult for the men to see the importance of seeking help. Many black men feel isolated and prefer to suffer in silence than admit that they are struggling. Black men are stoic because they have never been taught how to talk about the emotional issues they might face. Too often suffering in silence is the default mode for black men who are struggling with mental health issues.
How can society come to the aid of black men who are struggling with mental health issues?
· Provide funding to train culturally competent mental health providers.
· Develop initiatives to increase awareness of mental health among black men.
· Make treatment options more affordable and available to the black community.
· Start the conversation early in the black community to remove the stigma about mental health that is prevalent in the black community.
· Create more support groups that are “black men friendly”
Here are a few resources that can help to get the conversation started. While this is not an exhaustive list, this is a great starting point for black men and their families. The stigma associated with mental health in the black community must be removed for healing to take place. Hopefully, this article and these resources can help families who are struggling with finding the mental health assistance they need.
Ward, E., & Mengesha, M. (2013). Depression in African American men: A review of what we know and where we need to go from here. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 83(2), 386 - 397
Watkins, D. C., Allen, J.O., Goodwill, J.R., & Blake, N. (2017). Strengths and weaknesses of the
young black men, Masculinities, and Mental Health (YBMen) Facebook project. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 87(4), 392 – 401.