Kenton Gibbs| Staff Writer
The hospitalizations of Kanye West and Kid Cudi have made me step back and closely examine how mental health is treated in the black community as well as in my own family.
Although these men have immense amounts of wealth and fame, their stories and the reactions to them are very common within the black community. I found it hard to examine the way we look at and deal with mental health in black men because of my own views about these things.
What I found to be surprising was the amount of support that both Kanye and Cudi received. There have been a few people to bash them and say things like “They’re rich. How bad can their problems be?” or “They been crazy, who cares?” But for the most part, fans from all walks of life have shown support to Kanye West. Kid Cudi’s incident prompted the hashtag #yougoodman. The hashtag was meant to remove the stigma around black men and mental health.
Many people have raved about the progress that will be made by these events but I want to talk about how we got here. These types of things don’t sprout out of nowhere. Why have black men been shamed into thinking that seeking help for their mental well-being is girly or white? It didn’t take long to realize that one’s family as well as many other aspects of society lead to these ideas.
All my life I was told that being black in America meant that I had to be physically, mentally and emotionally stronger than my white counterparts. Whenever people could see I was about to cry or was sad, I was constantly told, “Man up” or “You can never let them see you sweat.” This, along with various other factors, led me to realize that all my life I’ve been taught to internalize any pain, anguish, anxiety or any other negative emotion that I experience. This type of attitude is the root of many problems in our communities.
The same little boys that were taught to “man up” become adults who may suffer from some form of mental illness.
Another common theme in our communities is the logic of “Pray on it and it’ll get better.” I know this may ruffle a few feathers but praying simply isn’t always enough. Going to the altar isn’t always enough. Some people don’t get the feeling from religion but even if they do, in James, Chapter 2, verse 14 the bible says that faith without works is dead. So we should change that saying to “Pray on it and let’s go see a therapist” or “Let’s pray on it and seek the help of a trained professional”.
Many families don’t really believe in mental illness as a serious thing. Growing up I heard adults say things like “No child has ADD/ADHD. They just need a belt to their behind.” The adult version of that is always, “Well you know (insert name). They’ve always been a little off/crazy.” This dismissive language makes it normal to never seeking help or get disorders properly diagnosed. Although black people tend to have lower rates of self harm, this alarming trend may have a massive impact on the violent crime rates.
If you are a young black man reading this or you know a young black man please tell them how loved they are. Let them know it’s okay to be vulnerable and to feel emotions other than happiness and anger. We may not all be platinum selling artists but many of us still need your love and support on a daily basis. Especially those of us who struggle with mental illness.