Invisible Man: Black Men & PTSD
Black men have an unbelievable weight on their shoulders. The stress comes in every direction on a daily basis. The impact of walking down the street in your own neighborhood can be a traumatic experience in itself. You don’t know who to trust. You would love to trust your brother who shares the same pigment, but he’s bound by that same fear that has you tiptoeing on eggshells just to walk to work or school. It’s hard to trust the police because you don’t know if they’ll protect or serve. And sometimes the trauma happens in your own home. The dynamics of Black household relations can often put a strain on the mind of a young Black man who will grow up with this thing we call post traumatic disorder (PTSD).
This disorder is developed after being exposed to something that is highly stressful, scary or dangerous. This exposure doesn’t have to happen directly to the person with PTSD. For instance, seeing your friend be killed, watching a car accident and even being in the home of domestic abuse can all trigger PTSD in a person. Marked by frequent flashbacks, hallucinations, mood changes and avoidance behavior, PTSD is a disease that gets overlooked in our community.
What some may not realize is that fireworks can also be a source of stress and a trigger for some veterans.
Loud noises that sound like gunfire and other explosive blasts can trigger post-traumatic stress disorder. The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs estimates 11% to 20% of military members who have served in Iraq or Afghanistan suffer from the condition in a given year.
Black men are taught to be macho and keep it all inside. The “Be a Man” motto has a lot of our men suffering in silence with PTSD. The symptoms can vary from person to person according to Dr. Tasha Holland-Kornegay of the Outpatient Center .
“It can be intrusive symptoms such as thoughts and emotions that intrude into his life and causes him to re-experience trauma such as flashbacks, nightmares, and sudden feelings of terror. Another way of knowing is his attempt to avoid re-experiencing trauma, and constantly feeling threatened,” Dr. Holland-Kornegay explained.
PTSD can be a host of things, but for many Black men these things will be looked at as “the normal way of life for brothers.” Our Black men have a distrust of the medical institution in America. Things like the Tuskegee Experiment and other medical atrocities committed in the name of medical advancement and savagery keep many Black men at home self-diagnosing or coping in ways that are detrimental.
Dr. Jean Bonhomme, founder of the National Black Men’s Health Network, offers some insight into why Black men don’t seek help.
Lack of Awareness
For instance, African American men die at the hands of prostate cancer at high rates, but if you ask a Black man where the prostate gland is he probably won’t know. It’s a lack of information out there for Black male health concerns. All we seem to hear about are things like Susan G Komen Walk for Breast Cancer, but not initiatives for the mental health of Black men.