Whether you’re aware of it or not, there’s a high probability you know someone who is personally affected by a mental health disorder. From depression, anxiety, stress, PTSD, ADD, postpartum depression, suicide to bi-polar and schizophrenia disorders are closer to you than you think.
The problem is our inability to have an honest dialogue about mental health; especially when it comes to black men.
Add the bravado and machismo of hip hop culture into the mix and you have a powder keg of stress, competition, pride, pretentiousness and emotional impotence. Suffering in silence has become the norm without any understanding or guidance of how to practice shameless mental self-care.
One of the hardest things to do is ask for help.
As a therapist who’s helped and counseled 100’s over the years, (from presidents of Fortune 500 companies, preachers, prisoners and more..) I admire and respect everyone who is bold enough to raise their hand to say, “I need help.”
So many stereotypes and stigmas have been passed on throughout the years surrounding Men and our ability to successfully seek help when we need it; especially in the black community.
Our ego, pride and programming typically get the best of us. From the church who tells us to, “Pray it away” or other men who tell us to, “Man up.” We were taught as boys how to suppress and hide our emotions versus expressing them. We were accustomed to phrases such as:
- “Stop cutting those eyes.”
- “You better get that look off your face”
- or the infamous, “You better dry up those tears before I give you something to really cry about!”
What’s more problematic is that boys usually hear statements like these immediately after being disciplined in some capacity. The reality is that children have a right to be angry and hurt just like you do.
Parents have to be careful. Being taught how to stifle our emotions as boys, systemically severs our connection to cognitively communicate what we’re truly feeling. Suppression versus expression then becomes the norm. Either way, we have a cycle of subscribing prescriptions of passive principles that are systemically problematic for our personalities and plights as men.
As a result of repressing, suppressing and not sharing emotions effectively, Men have:
- Higher Illnesses
- Higher levels of Stress
- Higher Anxiety
- Higher Blood Pressure
- Higher Suicide Rates
- and Shorter life spans
We’re killing ourselves softly
Sharing what’s on your mind or what you’re going through is important. Often times you think you’re the only one going through some mess, but if you look around, you’ll find that the ledge you’re standing on is so crowded that it’s about to crack due to the abundance of folks who you never suspected to see standing next to you.
As men we have to realize that we all go through similar situations, sentiments and circumstances. By sharing or expressing your story, you release the tension and pressure of feeling like you’re dealing with it alone; you’re not.
Being vulnerable isn’t a bad thing.
When emotions are not dealt with in healthy manners or are repressed, denied or discouraged, other unhealthy behaviors begin to manifest.
Mismanaged feelings or emotions tend to lead to more severe behaviors such as:
- Substance abuse
- Sexual promiscuity
- Avoidance behaviors that drive us further away from dealing with our initial problem.
Fellas, women are often quick to say men don’t talk, don’t have feelings or don’t know how to express themselves.
Those stereotypes have plagued our society for years. Fortunately, I beg to differ. In fact, men are extremely articulate when it comes to expressing themselves if they are provided the right opportunity, environment and platform.
The good news is that it’s never too late to begin learning how to share and express yourself. Conquering the fear of swallowing your pride and telling your ego to beat it is easy if you remember that God speaks to you and through you.
So holding in your feelings is only blocking the blessings you’re supposed to be expressing in hopes of helping yourself and possibly someone else. Real men don’t have issues with raising their hand and asking for help. If you’re struggling with something, be man enough to talk about it in some capacity.
You never know how much sharing will benefit you until you try it. Who knows, expression versus suppression could save your life and the life of someone who just heard how hard you thought you had it.
Share this article with Men you know and care about…
If you’re in Atlanta, join us Weds, Oct 5th 6:30-7:30pm at the Loudermilk Conference Center for the A3C Festival panel “Major Keys to Mental Health & Hip-Hop” as industry professionals discuss this important topic! The lineup includes: Ashley Reid, (Photographer, Activist & Founder of The People Assembly), Ms. Deb Antney (CEO of Mizay Music Group & Be100Radio – also seen on Love & Hip Hop Atlanta), Bryan Michael Cox (Grammy Award-winning Producer & Songwriter) and Dina Marto (Owner & Founder of Twelve Music & Studios) The panel will be moderated by Jack A. Daniels (Celebrity Psychotherapist & TV host)