Month: September 2017

Black Men and Mental Health Matters, Part 2….A Different Perspective.

This is part 2 of my article on Men of Color and Mental Health. Here is a different perspective from 2 Caucasian men. Share your thoughts as well……


1. With the recent news of NFL player Aaron Hernandez’s passing and the FB Live murder, how important do you feel it is to address the mental health of men (and men of color) right now?
Richard M., married entrepreneur and TV show host, Coffee & Cream TV (pictured above): 
I think ‘mental health’ really puts a certain heaviness to both of these examples. Mr. Hernandez committed suicide to a situation that, obviously, has very little hope.
I feel, honestly, that I, being relatively of good mental wellness, would consider that option as well. No form of ‘address’ would have enough of a impact.

In the case of Mr. Stephens, that could relate easily to mental illness.
Especially, since there was a considerable amount of ‘cool-down’ time in the process. His crime was calculated, even if his victim was random. 

The importance of addressing mental illness, in my opinion, would dwindle compared to more of the issue of STRESS on men in this world of multi-focal issues that are important to our Western culture as men.
Frank M., married working man and noted photographer (no picture provided):
Extremely important.
Why? Mental Health issues among men are still not widely accepted as a health issue, but are often characterized as a weakness or character defect that doesn’t require treatment and  can be conquered through willpower or moral fortitude.
2. Stereotypically, how well are we (culturally) taking care of the mental health of black men, in particular?
I still think there is a strong and resilient ‘slave’ mentality inherent in the ‘black’ culture on all economic and societal levels.
The victim stance through media and political agendas has reinforced this on a perceived level.
If money (power and influence) is not being directed at affirming and building genuine and true empowerment to the male black populace, I see little will change.
If you come out of the womb, and all through your life you are racially victimized, especially from within your own ‘color-based’ culture, even within the structure of ‘black’ families…
You truly will have little regard to your own strength…especially in the mind in regards to self-worth, problem-solving and change agency.
The stereotype that men must be strong and handle their business is a basic tenet that has very positive implications for many areas in life.  But when it comes to areas like health it is very dangerous.  This is true especially for mental health issues which lag behind even physical health with men refusing to ask for help and and are reluctant to take help. This tendency is not helped by the moral fiber or willpower argument against getting help that is reinforced by church and cultural norms.
3. What can we do differently to help? 
Racially, we must enlighten, educate and celebrate a genuine shift in positive and truthful self-identity to the ‘black’ or ‘colored’ male. This must be displayed on personal, corporate and educational level.
Not as some PC speak or behavior that either displays itself as ingenue or patronizing.
I find it frustrating as a white male with barely a High School education, that I know measurably more about the ‘dark-skinned’ struggle and accomplishment historically and intellectually on a global level.
The responsibility lies squarely on the black male and his paradigm shift .
If we, as the perceived evil ‘white’ control system, solely provide this for him…it will be just another master enslavement control and the black culture will blame my pigmentation as victims.
It will be business as usual and no difference…again.
High profile role models that have accepted help for mental health issues doing PSAs could help but the narrative for men to be strong and self-reliant will be difficult to reverse.

All in all, mental illness is a serious matter that requires much more attention, diagnosis, treatment and equal access to care. I hope that these ideas shed some light and encourage all men to get the help they need.



Men’s Mental Health Matters, Too…..

Here’s my article that is now being featured on on men of color and mental health:

We’ve just recognized National Mental Health and National Minority Mental Health Months this summer. This month is Suicide Awareness Month. Depression, anxiety and other disorders clearly have had a remarkable impact on society lately—both positive and negative.  Social media and medical outlets are reporting on various aspects regarding mental illness regularly.

With this and more and more news of issues in the minority and black male community, I thought it prudent to address what appears to be happening. I had the honor and opportunity to interview 2 black men, who were presented four open-ended questions about mental health in our society today. Let’s see what they have to say about the importance of addressing what’s plaguing our minds and spirits in the world lately.

1. A while back, there was news of NFL player Aaron Hernandez’s reported suicideand the FB Live murder, among other instances. How important do you feel it is to address the mental health of men (and men of color) right now? Why?


Levar J, black entrepreneur/motivational DOER, husband and Dad of 2:  Mental health is very ignored amongst men of color because of the perception that is shows weakness.  Men naturally want to lead and appear strong and admitting that I may not be healthy mentally doesn’t line up with showing strength.  On the other hand, mental health is ignored by parents when it comes to their boys.  It’s always been important and even more important now that we change the perception amongst men of color.  We need a new attitude of being a real man is getting help and communicating your feelings.


Ace R, black co-founder of a Brain Health research foundation and a leader in the field of HIV, single male:  The behavioral health needs of men of color have not been addressed in any systematic way for men of color. High levels of stigma still remain in communities within the Black Diaspora in addition to Latino ones as well. It is imperative that we focus on supporting families that have been decimated by disproportionate incarceration, police contact, and sustained lack of community investment in regards to education and vocational development. It is short-sighted to believe that these issues can be overcome without professional support. The brain is no different than any other organ in the body. If it is injured, professionals should be engaged just like if you break your leg or have cardiac failure.

2. Stereotypically, how well are we (culturally) taking care of the mental health of black men, in particular?

Levar J: There’s definitely room for improvement.  The difficulty is that were addressing mental health issues now that have been developing since birth in some cases.  As a result, these men are now fathers, husbands, leaders, etc. We were taught to pray it away or deal with life…..getting help isn’t a popular option.

Ace R: Black men must overcome a historical lack of access to healthcare, especially behavioral health. With expanded access, we must address the cultural shift that comes with a division of the medical field where there is little known which has led to higher levels of misinformation and stigma. Additionally, there is a dearth of Black and/or African-American psychiatrists, psychologists, and counselors in the field which would engender high levels of trust within the Community.

3. What can we do differently to help?

Levar J: Overall we need to increase the communication and advertisement of getting mental health support..all mainstream media, probing patients within primary care visits, etc.

Ace R: The AMA (American Medical Association) needs to encourage Black medical students to go into the field of psychiatry tied to tuition forgiveness in underserved areas of behavioral health for Black/African-American communities which most likely will be in urban cores. We need to share the stories of well-known Black men who are publicly addressing their behavioral health like NFL player Brandon Marshall.

The intersections of life have large consequences on behavioral health. If a man is gay or bisexual, differently-abled, and/or experiencing severe mental distress, the Black/African-American communities must make an effort to fully support and uplift those individuals and not treat them as others. Currently, I serve as a Board Director for the Avielle Foundation that looks to combat violence through brain health research, community engagement and education. It is clear that we do not know enough about the brain and the impact that social stressors may have on each of us. Just like fried food, the impact on one person will be different than in another.


All in all, mental illness is a serious matter that requires much more attention, diagnosis, treatment and equal access to care. I hope that these ideas shed some light and encourage men to get the help they need.

Stay tuned for part 2 next week.