A letter to Black men during Mental Health Awareness Month
Updated: Aug 12, 2019
Many years ago, I saw my daddy cry in the front seat of the car as we prepared to walk into my great grandmother's funeral. My younger self knew that this was a sad occasion, but I couldn't make sense of the tears that trickled down his face because this was the first time that I witnessed my father outside of the strong, stoic sphere that I knew him to exist in. I thought to myself,"boys (men) don't cry, they brush it off and keep going" because that's what I had seen and heard time and time again. A narrative being forced upon Black boys who would later become Black men that can't recall the last time that they let themselves cry or feel.
Dear Black men,
Walking around in public, I see your faces in passing and I think about my brothers or cousins or close friends who I know intimately. And lately, the same worried feelings I have for the Black men that I know-- as they navigate in a world that sees them as a threat-- are the same feelings that come to me when I see you, even though we probably will never actually know each other in this lifetime. With every passing face I feel a wave of empathy wash over me as I wonder about the pain that each one of you quietly bare.
Do you have a safe space to go to where you can express your feelings and emotions without feeling like you’ll be seen as less than a man? Do you ever reach out for help when you feel like you’re drowning?
During this Mental Health Awareness Month, my hope for you is that you have and will continue to take care of yourselves. There is just as much value in your ability to be a strong, hard working man as there is in being able to prioritize your emotional and internal needs. There is nothing weak about acknowledging your fears and anxieties in this life and then reaching out for help.
You’ve lived life under the weight of a twisted view of masculinity and a social system that dehumanizes you, conditioning you to always be on guard without ever leaving a door open to visit vulnerability and expressing your emotions. You feel isolated and in turn see no other choice but to deal with things on your own. Poverty, racism and past trauma are the primary contributing factors to mental health disorders among Black people- so though we trudge the same journey, our paths as Black men and women will not always look exactly the same. I can freely pour out my heart or simply ask for help when I feel like life is beating me down without immediately being labeled "sensitive" or "weak". And though this may be... it doesn't have to remain this way.
My hope is that you will do the inner work to heal wounds that you've continued to place band aids on for so long. Suffering in silence is not a prerequisite for being a man so reach out when you need to. Make no mistake, I am not asking you to be "weak", but to discover the strength it takes to be open, honest and vulnerable in safe spaces where a person or people understand the plight of Black men and your experiences.
To the Black man struggling with depression.
To the Black man that feels lost.
To the Black man fighting to find himself.
To the Black that feels like giving up on life.
To the Black man that’s grieving.
To the Black man only familiar with clouds of darkness.
To the Black man stifled by anxiety.
You are worthy of life. You are worthy of love. You are worthy of healing. You have value and though this world and this life has beaten you down, you should not have to suffer alone. It's okay to not be okay. Your mental health is important.... take care of yourselves.
Thanks for reading, and don't forget... be great! xox.
Resources you can use: Henry Health, a platform dedicated to self-care support and mental health services of Black men. You can also download their app soon!