By The Invisible Dragon
Young Black males, as suicide victims, were unheard of growing up in 1970’s. However, presently, according to the American Association of Suicidology, suicide rates for African-American males ages (15-24) increased 83% in the early 80’s and 90’s. More importantly, most suicide victims suffered from depression at their end. Suicide has become a statistical reality for many young brothers. The sad fact that young males are killing themselves is startling, but the communities’ silence is worse, even tragic. As a result, Black communities face stinging charges of being callous, insensitive, and more importantly, mis-educated. It is my belief; the silent epidemic on Black men and depression must be shattered.
Black men rarely speak about their mistrust of organized healthcare. One reason for the silence is the mistrust they possess toward the health care profession. The Tuskegee Experiment is just one example of gross malpractice levied against Black males throughout American history. I, personally, refused to use White male doctors in the past and frankly all male physicians. Often, they gave me a sense that my health issues were not as serious and that intestinal fortitude was in order. In the hood, reputation and the cool pose is everything Black males risk isolation and marginalization if they have a mental illness label. Despite, whys and wherefores, we must face ourselves and shed the current fear to face depression. Young Black males suffer from mental illness; we better admit this and speak up.
Unfortunately and fortunately, Black males do not attend church in large numbers. One reality they face is Black Churches dis-empower them by suggesting only the blood of Christ heals. Young Black males are inundated constantly with this message from female relatives, girlfriends, and wives. Usually those loaded theme suggestions fall on deaf ears. Nevertheless, I sympathize with anyone who attempts to sound the bell about males and mental illness. However, in contrast, depression is not a headache that’s erased through pray and aspirin. It is important Black Christians not marginalize depression anymore; it’s real, get over it. In addition, we must refuse to endorse the religious-based mythology, “Only the blood of Jesus heals”. We need the Black church to become a responsible partner in healing our young men.
If one would solve a problem, the study of the problem is a prerequisite. In urban communities, often, Black males lead a life of isolation and sequestration. My own view, education on mental illness is a valid step to our miscarriage concerning mental illnesses. More directly, to break the silence we must seek education as the only solution. Although, a controversial issue has been whether depression is real, this by the way is crazy. The collective illiteracy about affective disorders is the result of such careless thinking. The mis-education of mental health is important because half-truths may disable the men and communities, rendering them impotent in life endeavors. Thus only, data driven information will pardon communities and free young brothers.
It is no secret, in urban communities; countless Black males inflicted with mental illness, live in virtual darkness. Sad and disheartened, they routinely live emotionally disengaged existences. And, we do know, if depression deepens without medical intervention hopelessness may become a reality. Haeffel, Abramson, Brazy, & Shah (2007) define hopelessness as being convinced the future holds bad results and all efforts are futile. Our refusal to seriously engage men about their mental health ultimately hurts Black families, children, and communities. As well, to continue endorsing cultural mental illness mythologies are an even more egregious assault. We have a responsibility, and duty, to educate ourselves and communities on mental illness:
Shall we not set ourselves free?