Black men are opening up about their struggles with mental health

Actor and gospel singer David Mann and TV and radio personality Charlamagne Tha God discuss their mental health journeys.

Editor’s note: This article includes references to suicide and mental health emergencies.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Established 74 years ago, the designation by Congress aims to highlight the importance of mental health and wellness in people’s lives and, according to the SAMHSA website, celebrate recovery from mental illness.  We’re glad to shine a light on this particular topic, because discussing mental health, or a person’s psychological and emotional well-being, can often be taboo, especially for Black men.

Sadly, mental health issues can often go unaddressed until it’s too late. Just last year, we lost television host Twitch, for example. According to the CDC, suicide is the third leading cause of death for Black Americans ages 15 to 24, and Black men are four times more likely to take their own life than Black women.

It might be hard to imagine personalities like Charlamagne Tha God and David Mann struggling with their mental health. But in a recent episode of theGrio with Eboni K. Williams, they were transparent about when they realized they were having difficulty and about what they’re doing to overcome it. While Charlamagne works with organizations like the Mental Wealth Alliance to make it easier to seek help, Mann learned that prayer and therapy can coincide.

Charlamagne thought he was experiencing a heart attack

Charlamagne Tha God said he thought his panic attacks would go away. When they didn’t, he sought help. (Photo: Getty Images)

Charlamagne said he had what he thought was a heart attack while driving. After visiting the doctor, he learned it was a panic attack but figured it would go away after he secured a steady job. When he landed a position on “The Breakfast Club,” he recounted, he made more money, but the panic attacks continued. That’s when he decided to get help.

Daily anxiety attacks are nowhere near normal

Mental health professional
Efforts are underway to take the stigma away from seeking mental health help. (Photo: Adobe Stock)

Although symptoms of panic attacks may vary from person to person, Charlamagne said he felt heart palpitations, shortness of breath and forehead sweating, which is what made him seek a therapist. Comic books describe these feelings as a “spidey sense,” but the television and radio personality said, “What about if your spidey senses are tingling for no reason?”

These symptoms might be dismissed as “normal” because of the stressful environment we live in. We often hear that “you’re supposed to be paranoid,” or people might describe constantly being on high alert as “being on point.” But the truth is that constantly feeling those spidey senses isn’t normal.

Mental Wealth Alliance seeks to destigmatize mental health in Black communities

Not only has Charlamagne been candid about his mental health journey but he also founded the Mental Wealth Alliance, an organization headed by Dr. Alfiee Breland-Noble to bring about “the change necessary for a downward shift in stigma around mental health.” The alliance’s mission is built on three pillars: teach, train and treat. Charlamagne realized that, with his platform, he would be able to raise money faster than a lot of organizations, so the Mental Wealth Alliance raises the money and gives it to the people on the ground doing the work. The alliance is seeking to get 10 million Black people free therapy over the next five years.

While it is our job to put in the work to heal when we’re suffering from mental health issues, organizations like the Mental Wealth Alliance make it easier to seek help in the first place.

Mann says he secretly battled depression

Actor and gospel singer David Mann said he sought counseling for his depression. (Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images)

In a recent interview with Tamron Hall, Mann, an actor and gospel singer, revealed he was secretly battling with depression. Speaking to theGrio’s Williams, he said he realized there was a problem when his “routine was broken” and he found himself “sitting in the office for hours and hours and only found peace in sleep.” The actor decided to seek counseling, even though it felt outside of his norm.

“If I had a problem with my heart, I would seek a heart doctor. If I had problems with any other thing in my body, I would go seek professional help. I needed some help for my mental health,” he said.

You can’t always ‘pray it away’

Mann and his wife, Tamela Mann, an actress and gospel singer, are no strangers to the church. David Mann said he did take to the altar, but when he realized he needed more than prayer, he sought professional help. Black families will commonly say if a struggle arises, they need to “pray it away,” but Mann said he believes “God has put in place someone that could help me with my mental health.”

No one has to get through the problem alone, Mann said. He noted that he tried to deal with it solo, but after telling family members what was going on, they helped him out. It’s common for Black men to feel “weak” or ashamed for dealing with depression. But it’s OK to not be OK, and it’s important to seek a safe space to be vulnerable.

Tune into theGrio with Eboni K. Williams at 6 p.m. EDT every weeknight on theGrio cable channel.