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Dispelling Myths, Misconceptions About Depression, Black Men

Black man with hands on head

There are lots of myths and misconceptions out there about Black men, therapy, depression and mental health. Unfortunately, these myths and misconceptions have done a lot more harm than good over the years. As men in the Black community, experiences of what we heard growing up about mental health and how it should be dealt with may have been such phrases as:

  • “I was taught to keep my business to myself.”

  • “If I seek outside help and talk about my childhood, will it reflect badly on my family?”

  • ”If I tell anyone I have a therapist, they’ll think I’m crazy.”

  • “I don’t want to be one of those people who can’t handle their own problems.”

When I look back, many of the adults I grew up around were self-medicating with alcohol. Living in a highly segregated neighborhood under the legacy of racism, although depression was not talked about or acknowledged, it seemed that most adults were depressed. But we didn’t talk about it. It just was. It was just accepted as a state of being and everyone tried to deal with their reality any way they knew how. Keeping our pain inside might mean our business is not "in the streets," but it IS inside of us wreaking havoc. Suppressing emotions can contribute to health issues such as high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, chronic pain, and diabetes, to name a few.

Our Upbringing Has Perpetuated Many of the Mental Health Myths That Exist Today

As a result of this secrecy growing up, we’ve cultivated enduring mental health myths and phrases including:

  • It’s Just “The Blues,” It Will Pass

  • You Can Pray Your Depression Away

  • Man Up!

  • Black Folks Don’t Commit Suicide

These have been, by far, the most detrimental ideologies that we hold as Black men. Let’s take a look at the implications of each myth.

It’s Just “The Blues,” It Will Pass.

The biggest problem with the idea that "it's just the Blues, it will pass." is that leaving things to chance is a dangerous game and can cause issues with work, social life, and personal life. Depression can resemble other things like not being happy with your job and/or not going to work; isolating your partner/spouse/children/family. Waiting for depression to “pass” has led to men suffering in silence and pain. Pain is pain; feeling “the blues”, is a signal that you need some care.

You Can Pray Your Depression Away.

Although prayer and community can be protective factors against depression, if you are struggling with depression — which is a medical condition — prayer is not enough. We are all familiar with the biblical saying “Ask and Ye shall receive,” but most of us are also familiar with “Prayer without work is dead.” We pray for healing but must follow the doctor’s and or prescription orders. We must do our part.

“Man Up.”

The phrase “Man Up” proposes that we have all the answers and just need to look harder. It just isn’t that simple! “Man Up” represents one of the most toxic masculine phrases ever created. It equates to “Nobody cares if you have issues, shut up and keep it pushing.” Well, most of us would never tell anyone the latter, so why do we continue to use the phrase “Man Up”? We need to start using phrases like “Brother are you okay?” or “Let's talk about it, really!”

Black Folks Don’t Commit Suicide.

Unfortunately, being Black is not a preventative factor against suicide. As we explored in part one of this series, the real toll of depression is reflected in a rise in suicide rates among Black men. In fact, being Black is correlated with instances of illness and early death due to a variety of factors, not least of which is the burden of racism. We (especially Black men) all were impacted in some way by what we witnessed in 2020 with the live broadcast of George Floyd’s murder. We have yet to recover from that one, yet it’s happened again. With so much happening around us, it’s hard to maintain a positive outlook while also focusing on maintaining stable mental health.

No matter what myths or misconceptions you or other members of the Black community may have, we were never meant to carry this burden alone. I’m calling on all Black Men to rise to the challenge of taking accountability for their mental health and stop allowing generational curses and ignorance to guide how we deal with mental health. Create a space where you are heard and validated. As Jamie Foxx once said, “You betta blow that stuff out.” Let’s talk.

Kristal DeSantis' expertise in her counseling work has always been hyper-masculine men and the women who love them. She’s experienced in treating the areas of trauma, attachment, healthy relationships, and sex among others. In her new book, STRONG: A Relationship Field Guide For the Modern Man (February 2023), Kristal provides a new guide for a healthy egalitarian modern relationship, paving the way for the modern man to understand how to be a green flag in his relationships.

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1 comentário

Wayne Johnson
Wayne Johnson
02 de out. de 2023

Thanks to the article, I learned a lot of interesting information about black men. Personally, I have always enjoyed watching them. I realized a long time ago that they are no different from white men. And recently I found black man praying images and I am impressed. How heartfelt they are about it.

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