Admin Note: June will always be Men’s Month here on The Ideal Firestarter. It will be a space of honest dialogue and love, also of objective observation. For today, I am going to take an honest observation for young black men and mental health. Depression and black men are not often talked about, and they are often taught to internalize trauma. Black men deserve to be healed and whole also. Thank you. JBH
In a past academic life, I wanted to be a therapist. I loved psychology. I loved learning how the mind worked, and the aspects which make us as human beings unique individuals. I liked sociology as well because I liked learning how humans beings interact and why we act the way we do in different environments. As a mother, and wife, and sister, in the light of the world that wishes to devour husbands, sons and brothers, I would be remiss in my duty to not talk about the silent epidemic of black men and depression.
I know there will be somehow will say, “Black men don’t get depressed.” or “Black men don’t need help with anything, they just need to do better.” To this I counter by saying this, “Accountability, in order to be equitable, must be doled out in kind.” Meaning, there must be accountability on both parts of a relationship for it to work.
There is this acceptance now of black women concentrating on self-care, personal time, and taking advantage of mental health. That same acceptance, the same safety should be extended to black men. It must be extended to black men. I grow tired of this John Henryism around being black and male– no emotion, or only emoting the three H’s: hard (overly-tough), happy or horny. Black men need to be allowed to feel without the bludgeon of toxic masculinity telling them what they should be and could never be. This means, all trauma, unless and outlet is given, is internalized.
For some men, that trauma turns into this virus that infects all this relationships. In and with that internalizing, this viral contagion finds a home in the bosom of black women–because we are bred to believe we can fix men. We are bred to believe the troubles of the world can be solved by our love, our money, our time and strength. We are taught and shown black men cannot emote or emote the same way we can because black men cannot afford to be vulnerable or show weakness or fear. Those soft moments are only given and shown in the trappings of escapism or sexual conquests or exploits.
We need to allow black men the space, and permission, to be what they need to be to themselves before they can be anything else to the world who needs them. Black men do not get the right to pour their trauma into the safe spaces we create with them, and make no effort to clean them up. The onus for the trauma, dealing with the trauma is on them and it is time they access this same resources to become better. To do better, to heal. Black women are not God. That job is already taken, and I surely don’t want it.
In that, I take this time to reassure the men whom may read this, it is okay to not be okay. There are things you encounter which may not be your fault, of your doing, but may have taken up space in your mind and heart–it doesn’t make your soft for feeling like you can’t cope. For feeling sad. For reaching out. You as a black man do not have the right to lash out at the world around you, and hurt the people whom care for you with the reason of ,”I’m upset.” or “I was mad,” or “I can’t deal with this, I’m leaving.”
I’m going to but this challenge on you, fam. You can’t let your trauma spill over and then when people notice, you lash out. You don’t get you use your trauma to traumatize other people. You don’t get to treat the partner you are with like the one who left.
You don’t get to do this to us anymore.
The world needs you better. Your sons, brothers and friends need you better. We need to realize you aren’t perfect and you don’t have to be. You have the right to emote, to say what you need. You get resources to uproot what doesn’t need to be in your heart and head. You have the power to do that. Depression in black men does not make you any less male, or strong, or worthy. It makes your hurt. It makes you wounded. It makes you human.
So, be human.
Address what is wrong. Let go of what doesn’t serve you. You determine who you are not the ghosts of your past. You determine the course of this life. You. No one else. I have never been a fan of saying “all men are trash” or “all men are______________”. I will say, this, and have that be the end of the matter (I’m speaking in heteronormative terms):
Men are amazing people, and should be entitles to be amazing people. There are instance which relationships suffer from the internalized trauma of the people involved with it, whom contribute to the health and safety of the relationship. However, when you have one party whom addresses their issues, and makes changes–and the other does not–there is undo stress on the relationship. The partner not invested in emotional work spilled their trauma over into the relationship. It surfaces as irritations and slights–then full blown arguments…over dumb stuff. Dishes. Gas in the car. Money. Time.
The emotional work needs to be, should be done by all invested parties. It doesn’t make your less than for realizing strong black men sometimes need help. Don’t wait till you’re Shawn Carter’s age before you deal with your issues. Deal with them, because we don’t want to keep being billed for the subscription.
[image from Google, Raging Chicken Press]