Sadly enough, in our culture (both African American and Caribbean), open dialogue in homes regarding mental health is little to none. We want to take a moment to open that dialogue, specifically to our men, because it is okay not to be okay.
Let’s start off with some pretty universal realizations: Women are twice as likely as men to experience major depression, yet women are one fourth as likely as men to take their own lives. (Most) men value independence and they look at acknowledging a need for help as weakness and avoid it. (Most) women value interdependence, and they consult friends and readily accept help. Generally, the factors that protect women from suicide are the reason men feel inclined to choose a path of suicide. That says a lot about the effectiveness of open dialogue that, unfortunately, many of us are not used to.
As a people we collectively look to the earth for so many of our remedies. Grandma would go out into her yard and pick those leaves for that awful tea that would magically make us feel like our old self again (after we stopped gagging over the taste). We only ate things that were planted in our yard. The animals we killed were those that we raised. All of this shows how one we were with our surroundings. We still did not realize we were neglecting the most important part of our diet, our mind.
It is safe to say that from early years our people were taught to be silenced. From slave masters, to people in office, to bad bosses. We unconsciously took that home with us. We silence the weak with unhelpful mantras, we shut people out who appeared broken and the worst thing … we raised boys to grow into men who felt showcasing emotion made them weak. Now we, still unconsciously, created a culture of men who hide in their darkest shadows and we’ve given them no clear pathway out.
We are the only ones who have the power to change that narrative. That includes being accepting of a young man expressing himself, allowing grown men to tap back into traumas that formed them into the dark thinker that they may be today and to give them time to allow themselves to change their perspectives. This is not a role for the impatient to take on, and it is okay to come to terms with the fact that you may be (impatient that is), because these things take real dedication and a whole lot of time like breaking any bad habit does. But it is so worth it to have one less man lost from the acts of suicide.
Therapists are necessary, even in a completely “normal” situation, it is nice to sit down and talk through the happenings of your life with someone. As the man, learning to accept that not everything is a gab at your ego but a chance to grow is fundamental. Allowing yourself to feel is not weak. Having to put a good face on every day is not necessary for any reason. Even if you feel you have no one, there is always someone ready to walk your journey with you.
Praying peace, healing, and prosperity unto you all.
1-800-273-8255 is the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. It is open 24 hours every day. Please tap in if you even get the slightest itch that you may need a listening ear to sit with you.