Black Men's Mental Health Panel: Teaching Black Boys How To Discuss Emotions
What were you taught about mental health as a Black man? What were you taught about mental health at all, regardless of race or ethnicity as a man? What were you taught about emotions as a young man? The chances are that you were taught that emotions:
1) Get you trouble
2) Allow you to get hurt
3) Were useless because they are often illogical
4) Lead to poor decision making
5) Were to be hidden to show any signs of weakness
I could go on and on about toxic, male masculinity especially when it comes to mental health and Black boys and men. However, it needs to be dealt with because the reality is that Black boys and men are hurting and need to make expressing emotions as normal as breathing oxygen.
I ask men everyday in my office, "Are you human or a robot?" They look puzzled and respond, "I am a human, of course." Once they admit that they are human, I can begin to help them see that emotions are what makes different from robots and things, so we should embrace, communicate and deal with them in healthy ways. You would be the relief on men's faces when they can finally unmask and just talk about how they feel.
Contrary to popular belief, men do communicate and are fully capable of expressing emotions and feelings once given the permission, opportunity, relationship and coaching for how to properly do so. I had a chance to be on a panel with some alpha males who are respected around the world who openly shared their journey with mental health. It was a pleasure to share the stage with NBA legend and Hall of Famer, Dominique Wilkins, R&B sensation, Ronnie Devoe (New Edition & Bell, Biv, DeVoe) & Robert "RL" Huggar (Next).
I am not at liberty to share what we all discussed due to the sensitive nature of the panel but it was likely the first time that Black boys got to see Black men actually talk about stress, mindset for how to handle it, struggling growing up and how to recover from the darkest times in life. It was truly an honor to pour into the next generation and related with them personally.
One of the lessons I taught them was to use their voice to express how they feel so they can be heard, felt and powerful. It was powerful to give them language to fight feeling oppressed, ignored, abandoned and under taken care of. We can show boys how to be men by helping them access their emotions and modeling how to communicate and be in tune with how we feel. I know lives were impacted and I look forward to serving again.