Mental health issues affecting African American men

Black men have a higher rate of depression and anxiety than white men, but here’s the catch; they very rarely get the help they need.
Updated: Jan. 26, 2023 at 5:00 PM CST
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WSMV) - In mental health circles, January is also known as Manuary.

It’s a month focused on the mental health of men. But I decided to take the issue a little deeper and focus on the mental health issues of men of color.

Black men have a higher rate of depression and anxiety than white men, but here’s the catch; we very rarely get the help we need.

“The little bit of research that we do have says that things have gotten exponentially worse and when it comes to things like suicide attempts and suicide completions, Black men, Black boys in particular, are one of the fastest growing groups in that space,” Dr. Alfiee Breland-Noble said.

Breland-Noble is a pioneering psychologist and founder of the mental health nonprofit The AAKOMA Project. She specializes in mental health issues surrounding communities of colors. She finds that Black men are exposed to negative stereotypes about themselves that push them further to mental health issues such as depression, anxiety and even suicide.

We asked her for examples.

“Black men hear that they are criminals, that they don’t take care of their children. Even though we have data that says Black men are most likely, most highly engaged non-custodial parents across all racial ethnic groups,” Breland-Noble said. “But that’s a little blip on the screen. We hear things like Black men are violent. We hear things like Black men don’t want to take care of their responsibilities. So, all of these kinds of things are these negative stereotypes, and they are just that. They are stereotypes.”

The numbers don’t lie.

According to the American Psychological Association, only 26.4% of Black men ages 18 to 44 who experience daily feelings of anxiety or depression get help. And when they do seek help, they prefer a same race provider.

We also know across different mental health professions less than 5% of mental health professional with any type of degree are Black. There are also economic reasons and deep-rooted trust issues.

“So, when you think historically, who doesn’t know about the Tuskegee experiments at this point?” Breland-Noble said. “And if that’s part of your history and those are the things that you hear in your families and in your communities, you would be apprehensive, and rightly so. It’s justifiable apprehension.”

Rashad Donaldson is uncommon.

“It saved my life. Man, I would have been the next victim if I didn’t have therapy,” Donaldson said. “You see what I’m saying. I wouldn’t be here to raise my children if I didn’t have therapy because what hit me was so heavy and all I had was the tools to pick myself back up.”

After trying to take his own life back in 2019, he started therapy.

The help he received for his stress and depression prepared him for the unthinkable.

In August 2022, Donaldson’s wife and mother were both stabbed to death. The man charged with their murders, his own brother.

Therapy helped the healing process for Donaldson and his kids.

“I thought about my daughter. She already lost her mom. She can’t lose her dad. She can’t,” Donaldson said as tears streamed down his face. “And if her dad loses his mind, she will too. And I was like, ‘OK you already had the strength to kill yourself. Do you have the strength to stay alive? Are you that strong? I think I am.”

Donaldson said he and his kids have been putting in the work therapy demands to help with their mental health.

His advice to anyone contemplating getting mental health therapy is the same advice he gave himself.

“I am worth getting better. I am worth going through the process and coming out better,” Donaldson said. “You’re not a piece of coal, you’re a diamond. You just have to go through the process, and you’re worth it.”

If anyone is contemplating getting help for mental health issues, the AAKOMA Project, founded by Breland-Noble is offering five free therapy sessions for those of you who qualify.