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Reflections on the Black Men and Mental Health Symposium, Part 1


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Personal Context

As a 45-year-old Black man who grew up in the South and now resides in the Northeast, I bring a multifaceted perspective to the discussion of Black men and mental health. My identity as a queer educator, coach, and Christian shapes my understanding of the complexities we face. My personal journey includes wrestling with spiritual beliefs and having contemplated suicide during my younger years, which places me among the many Black men who have faced similar struggles.

The Urgency of Addressing Black Men's Mental Health

Suicide is the third leading cause of death among Black men, and the current socio-political climate exacerbates the mental health challenges we face. Post-George Floyd, the surge of right-wing hate, police violence, and systemic dehumanization heightens our risks. Black men are disproportionately affected by suicide, substance abuse, and inadequate access to quality health care. This disparity underscores the critical need for comprehensive mental health support and services. The conversations we have about these issues are not just important—they are life-giving and life-saving.

Personal Reflections and Family Ties

Recently, I visited my father in New Orleans to support him with some of his needs. He had a stroke last year that has transformed him—a 70-plus-year-old Mississippi-born-and-bred man, a United States Army veteran who was honorably discharged. My father spent over 50 years raising a family, driving the highways as a truck driver, and working various side jobs, including at Popeye's, to put food on the table. During our conversations, despite his ongoing struggle with language and the limited use of his left hand, he shared wisdom and stories that highlighted his vulnerability.

Reflecting on my father’s experience, I recognize the many ways our community could have supported him differently. Perhaps a healthier diet, less work stress, and better compensation could have prevented his stroke. His journey is a mirror to what my life could become, and I do not want a stroke or another suicide attempt to signal a need for change. I have tools available now to protect my health and well-being, to avoid succumbing to poverty, discrimination, and hate. It is vital to take proactive steps to care for myself and my family, embodying what it means to thrive and be whole.

Intersectionality and Unspoken Dimensions

While the symposium provided a necessary platform, it left me pondering the intersections of gender and gender norms. These dimensions significantly impact how we perceive and nurture ourselves and others. Our definitions of manhood and masculinity often restrict our authenticity and self-efficacy, limiting our potential to thrive fully. The conversation needs to expand to include these aspects to foster holistic well-being and genuine self-expression.

In a recent, enlightening discussion, Dr. Martin Pierre delved into the multifaceted challenges that Black males face when accessing mental health services. His insights shed light on systemic issues, cultural barriers, and personal struggles that often go unaddressed in mainstream dialogues about mental health.

Dr. Pierre highlighted the profound impact of societal expectations on Black males, stating, "Our anger, our pain, the fact that we are taught not to be vulnerable, that we see vulnerability as a form of weakness. If I seek help, it means that I'm crazy or I don't have the same agencies." This statement captures the core of the dilemma—vulnerability is often seen as antithetical to traditional masculinity, making it exceedingly difficult for Black males to express emotional needs or seek help.

Economic and Racial Barriers

"The impact of racism and decreased economic opportunity," Dr. Pierre explained, "impacts Black males being able to achieve traditional roles of masculinity." Furthermore, the accessibility of mental health services remains a significant hurdle, exacerbated by financial constraints and the scarcity of therapists who share similar cultural backgrounds. Dr. Pierre noted, "There's less than 1% of psychologists of color in the U.S.," which starkly limits the availability of culturally competent therapists.

The Search for Culturally Competent Care

Many Black men are hesitant to engage with mental health services due to a fear of misunderstanding and misdiagnosis. Dr. Pierre emphasized the importance of finding a therapist who not only understands the patient's cultural background but also employs both traditional and non-traditional therapeutic approaches. He mentioned, "Some Black males feel like if I go to therapy, they'll put me on medication that's going to change my personality." This fear underscores the need for more personalized and culturally aware mental health care.

Moving Forward

As we look to address these barriers, it's crucial to advocate for increased representation within the psychological profession, broader economic support for mental health services, and greater cultural competency among healthcare providers.

Dr. Pierre's remarks remind us of the urgent need for change and the importance of making mental health services accessible and relevant for every individual, particularly those hindered by systemic inequalities.


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Black Men’s Mental Health Casanova Williams, CEO, Father, Husband, Friend, Leader, Creator, and Entrepreneur brings challenges every day. But society never addresses the mental health of the black male as they do with other races and genders. For black males, the image is always ghetto, thug, aggressive, lazy, sex addict, deadbeat father, criminal, or just toxic masculinity. Black men are never seen as victims of mental health issues.

Express Yourself Black Man - Org that provides comprehensive mental health supports (podcasts, swag, a community platform where we take the stress out of the healing journey for Black men AND provide them access to the resources they need to heal through their premier mental health platform, Safe Haven.

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Lama Rod Owens - Lama Rod Owens is a Black Buddhist Southern Queen. An international influencer with a Master of Divinity degree in Buddhist Studies from Harvard Divinity School with a focus on the intersection of social change, identity, and spiritual practice. Author of The New Saints: From Broken Hearts to Spiritual Warriors and Love and Rage: The Path of Liberation through Anger and co-author of Radical Dharma: Talking Race, Love and Liberation, his teachings center on freedom, self-expression, and radical self-care. Highly sought after for talks, retreats, and workshops, his mission is to show you how to heal and free yourself.


Dr. Martin Pierre's candid discussion offers a crucial perspective on the intersection of race, masculinity, and mental health. It is a call to action for all of us to support systemic changes that foster a more inclusive and effective mental health system.

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