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Let's Be Bold About It...

Updated: Jun 13, 2023

Some subjects are not discussed within the African community; we are fully aware of their existence but turn a blind eye or ear, hoping it magically disappears. During my early college years, I encountered people with various personalities; some were introverts, and others were extroverts. I was the best of both worlds. Some days, I was highly outgoing; other times, I wanted to be alone.

During my final semester, I became withdrawn, not going out as much – not that I went out a lot, but I buried myself in my books, wanting perfect grades. I remember signing up for extra tutoring sessions with my algebra teacher; to keep busy. I was easily agitated and lashed at everyone without remorse. One day, a friend took me out for a drink to catch up on life and school. We had a lengthy conversation, and further into our discussion, she pointed out that I was exhibiting signs of mild depression. I frantically laughed and thought to myself that’s not possible, and secondly, I have never been depressed in my life (not that I’ll know). I became uncomfortable and made up an excuse to leave. We called it a night; I got home, took my laptop, and googled 'mild depression.' I recognized some common signs, but my first response mode was flight. I was scared, ashamed, and guilty. I finally had a pulse on what was happening to me, but how do I handle such? I couldn’t speak about it because saying it aloud might make it real, so I did the one thing I was taught; I anxiously prayed about it, asking God to heal my mind. Whenever I recognized the signs, I became intentional about going out and being around people; it didn’t solve the underlining problem, but it helped at that moment.

The World Health Organization states that about 792 million people worldwide suffer from mental health disorders. In the African region, the leading mental health conditions are depression (4.59%), anxiety disorder (3.59%), and alcohol abuse (1.11%). The article also mentioned that the growing issues associated with the cost of living and other social factors are increasing the burden of mental health disorders. In the United States, mental health issues are prevalent in Black communities but are underreported. Regardless of race, "the most common factors contributing to the causes are socioeconomic, genetic, and psychological." How can the African community help destigmatize mental health? Are there safe spaces for people to speak up without judgment? Do we cherry-pick what’s deemed a mental health issue and what’s not? Suppose therapy is not an option for most people because of access to and the cost of healthcare; how can the church and community actively educate individuals on the importance of maintaining a balanced physical, emotional, and mental well-being and normalize asking for help?

We’ve heard many stories of individuals who presented themselves as happy and healthy and later discovered they had committed suicide. The Association of American Medical Colleges reported that from 2018 to 2022, there was an increase in the suicide rate among black men between the ages of 10-24. Despite this reality, societal norms and stigma make it challenging for men to report any signs of mental health issues. How do we debunk the myth told by many, "Mental Health issues are not real."

For so long, we have been convinced that strong men don't cry and show emotions. Strong men don't express or talk about their feelings; it shows weakness. We tell boys to "toughen up and handle things because life is hard, " but do we stop and ponder the consequences of our words and their effect later on in life? Many men, especially within the African community, were nurtured by those words from either a parent or an elder relative. Being dominant, demanding, and commandeering were some personality traits expected from boys early on. Most of these boys grow up with such beliefs and ideologies; therefore, they intrinsically assume that they have to handle things alone and not seek assistance, but it's time to change the narrative! Depression, anxiety disorder, alcoholism, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, seasonal affective disorder, psychosis, paranoia, and countless other mental health disorders do not determine when and how they show up, nor do they have a face. They come in various colors, shapes, and sizes at different times in varied stages of life. Mental health is a global public health issue, not gender-specific, and must be treated as much. It can affect one's ability to live an active life and carry out activities of daily living. Let's give our boys room to express and cultivate their emotions; in return, they'll be men that can openly communicate their thoughts, ideas, and feelings.

To anyone going through mental health issues, speak up! Be bold about it and seek the help you deserve. Remember, "Mental health is a process and not a destination; it is about how you drive and not where you are going."

If you or anyone you know is suffering from any Mental Health issues, please call any of the numbers below:

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (Options for Deaf and Hard of Hearing) For TTY Users: Use your preferred relay service or dial 711, then 988 Chat Online

If you live in Indiana, Florida, or New Jersey and need assistance with substance abuse and mental health treatment program, please reach out to:

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