WHY BLACK MEN NEED TO SPEAK OUT ABOUT DEPRESSION

July 22, 2017

 

"If I didn't come here, I would've done something to myself. I simply am a damaged human swimming in a pool of emotions everyday of my life. There's a raging violent storm inside of my heart at all times," Kid Cudi’s chilling words from his Facebook post before voluntarily checking into rehab.

 

The recording artist and actor frank omission about his mental health drew support from other fans and artist but it also started a conversation on why black men need to speak out about depression.

 

The Huffington Post writes that “depression is a huge health concern among African-Americans — particularly women — but mental health is often stigmatized in the black community. ... But the CDC also finds that just 7.6 percent of African-Americans sought treatment for depression compared to 13.6 percent of the general population in 2011.”

 

Breaking the taboo of depression among African Americans men has been an ongoing struggle for generations. It’s possible that it could be a root cause behind the disproportionate number of violent crimes, school expulsions, domestic violence, and ultimately incarcerations in our communities, cyclically self-perpetuating. Described by the National Institutes of Health as a mood disorder that can affect a person’s ability to sleep, eat, or function normally, — is an ailment that is massive and detrimental in the African-American community, and even though it affects both genders, it serves as an 800-pound gorilla in the room when it comes to Black men.

 

Out of Cudi’s emotional post came the hashtag #YouGoodMan, which has been harnessed by other men of color struggling with their mental health who were inspired by Cudi’s vulnerability and found his words refreshing. Too often in the Black community, sharing these problems—and seeking mental health support—is viewed as a sign of weakness. There is no discussion, no room for tears or visible distress. That’s why it’s been so powerful to see other Black men sharing their experiences, expressing empathy, and most important, asking questions about how to get help.

 

 

A 2007 study coming from the American Medical Association showed that while the prevalence of Major Depressive Disorder was highest for Whites in their research sample, about 18 percent, it was most chronic for African Americans and Caribbean Americans, 56.5 and 56 percent, respectively — and only about 45 percent of African Americans and 24 percent of Caribbean Americans in the study got any treatment for it. Also, a 2010 CDC study shows that African Americans have the highest rate of suicide, at more than 12 percent, despite having a lower lifetime risk, but suicide is the third-leading cause of death for Black males ages 15-24.

 

Dr. David Malebranche reported to Newsone.com that, an internist and primary care physician at the University of Pennsylvania, has treated the issue of depression among Black men and agrees that it is largely under diagnosed and that’s because so many of us won’t open up about our feelings.

 

“A lot of times it’s issues around gender performance, expectations, how we look,” Malebranche said. “With Black men, people don’t want to see us as depressed and it’s not on the radar for health care providers to see us as depressed.

Among African American men, talking about your feelings is not always welcomed or encouraged. That’s why Kid Cudi’s revelation of feeling “ashamed,” or had been “living a lie” and feeling like he was “not at peace” was because he was not being upfront about his struggles with mental health.

 

Dr. David Malebranche reported to Newsone.com that, an internist and primary care physician at the University of Pennsylvania, has treated the issue of depression among Black men and agrees that it is largely underdiagnosed and that’s because so many of us won’t open up about our feelings.

 

 

“I am not at peace,” Kudi reveals. “I haven’t been since you’ve known me. If I didn’t come here, I would've done something to myself. I simply am a damaged human swimming in a pool of emotions everyday of my life. There's a raging violent storm inside of my heart at all times. Idk what peace feels like. Idk how to relax. My anxiety and depression have ruled my life for as long as I can remember and I never leave the house because of it. I cant make new friends because of it. I dont trust anyone because of it and Im tired of being held back in my life. I deserve to have peace. I deserve to be happy and smiling. Why not me? I guess I give so much of myself to others I forgot that I need to show myself some love too.”

 

#YouGoodMan is a huge step forward for black men's mental health and its being used as a platform for others to share their problems, and, also, to remind Black men that seeking mental health support is no longer a sign of weakness but strength.

 

The social norms involving depression, therapy, and generally seeking help are what trap black men into remaining silent. So many strong men who have self-harming thoughts continue to suffer in silence, and they need to know that it’s okay to release the pain. It’s okay to talk to a trusted professional or trustworthy friend.

 

Fusion.com reporter John Walker brilliantly wrote, “Minority men are often overlooked and told to “man up,” when we need help just as much as anyone else. Changing the stigma starts with children: Tell your boys that it’s okay to cry, that there’s nothing wrong with asking for help, and that having depression or acknowledging a mental health challenge does not make you crazy. It makes you human.”

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