Discrimination and racism has played a major role in creating the mistrust many in the Black community feel about doctors and the healthcare industry. Getting caught up in our feelings has only helped to create an urgent health crisis throughout our community – one that has somehow lasted for several hundred years.
Unfortunately, many of us have opted to deal with our pain using more communal therapy verses going the professional route. Although it continues to remain a taboo subject, several Black male celebrities have begun to publicly share their truth about suffering from depression, suicide ideations, and their complete breakdowns, potentially starting a shift against the stigma surrounding this “taboo” topic amongst our people.
This week, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson discussed how his mother’s suicide attempt when he was 15 sparked his own bout with depression, stating “I reached a point where I didn’t want to do a thing or go anywhere. I was crying constantly.”
Singer Ginuwine has also spoken out publicly about his multiple suicide attempts following his father’s suicide and his mother’s death from cancer in 1999 and 2000 stating “I didn’t want to be here anymore.” Ginuwine eventually went into counseling and although he didn’t complete it, he opted to go the religious route seeking solace from his pastor, who he says helped him throughout the grieving process.
Also this week, rapper Bow Wow announced he would be releasing his new album entitled “Edicius” (suicide backwards) after a recent Twitter rant discussing how he was becoming tired of living. He previously spoke about dealing with suicidal thoughts in an open letter to Russell Simmons stating, “The suicide thoughts just really came because I think earlier I was exposed to so much Uncle Russ to the point to where I kinda felt like it ruined my adulthood.”
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As alarming as his tweets are Bow Wow’s public outcry opened the door for many to have conversations about mental health in the hopes that not only he gets the help he needs, but others struggling with similar obstacles can begin to seek assistance as well.
Big boys don’t cry
Black men are conditioned to be more rational than emotional—to fight back tears rather than emote. When a Black man does finally break or becomes vulnerable, he usually gets stigmatized with labels like weak, effeminate or contributing to the emasculation of men. The unwillingness to deal with this trauma often manifests into depression, rage and various mental health breakdowns and concerns.
Public meltdowns are often a by-product of keeping all of these emotions in—tightly locked away where no one else will ever know it’s there.
Remember all that messiness Tyrese went through just a few months ago? It’s the perfect example of what can happen when the pressures of private life spill out publicly for the world to judge. Multiple rants, crying fits, and video messages showcased a man who was desperately in need of help, but left up for the consumption of social media to destroy.
Fortunately, Tyrese was able to get to the other side of it and eventually publicly reveal that he had been dealing with depression. His new medication was the cause for his erratic behavior. This public admittance of a private mental health battle was a big step in changing the norm we have created about keeping mental health a private matter.
These men are taking a enormous risk in putting their mental health business out in these streets. Our community has struggled to help those who are in distress. Removing the mask that money and fame can hide allows us the space to have conversations around all the crap that we are dealing with every day.
Make a change
The suicide rate of young black boys has tripled over the past 20 years—increasing pressure from society is surely a factor in that rise. As we watch more Black celebs discuss their mental health crises, it will continue to make room for the discussions we all need to have within our family and communities.
The stigma of mental health surrounding Black men can only change if more of us are willing to go public. We have to recognize when our men are crying out for help and offer them the space to truly be vulnerable.
George M. Johnson is the Managing Editor of BroadwayBlack.com. He has written for Ebony, TheGrio, TeenVogue, NBC News and several other major publications. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.