The Invisible 90 Percent: Changing The Narrative On Black Men & Depression

History of Black Men & Depression

Historically, African Americans have almost been forced to suppress their depression as a coping and survival mechanism.  During slavery, only the “strong” (physically and emotionally) survived; weakness literally meant death. African Americans were conditioned to look beyond the bondage, the physical and emotional abuse, the tearing apart of families and the literal rape and pillaging of their bodies, spirits and cultures to simply be able to get up every morning and survive the day.

Those who became more adept at suppressing their feelings of depression were emotionally rewarded with the ability to live in the deplorable situation over which they had little power. Post-slavery, African-Americans still had to “put on a brave face” (i.e., suppress feelings and emotions) to endure the many day-to-day indignities and injustices of Black life in America.

For African-American men, this struggle was more acute. As Black men we had to suppress our feelings of rage when the master or overseer would take our wives to the fields and rape them; we had to suppress our feelings of humiliation when as grandfathers with gray hair we were called “boy” by actual white boys whom we had to refer to as “mister”; we have had to suppress our feelings of shame when despite our education or skill set we were unable to find a job that allowed us to support our families; we have had to suppress our feelings of embarrassment when people see us coming and cross the street, or clutch their purses a little tighter in an elevator, or follow us around a store.

As as result of these micro-aggressions and flat out aggressions, many of us have lost touch with our feelings because doing so allowed us to function in a society that in large part provided no socially acceptable outlet for us. While there have been lots of historical reasons for African-American men to feel emasculated, the one thing that we have been able to control is a perception of strength that makes vulnerability very difficult.  

Where Do Men Go From Here?

And this brings us back to Kid Cudi and the very open and honest tweet that he shared with his fans regarding his struggle with depression and his plan to seek treatment. Depression is highly treatable with a combination of antidepressant medications and psychological counseling (i.e., talk therapy). Kid Cudi is definitely on the vanguard of the movement highlighting the phenomenon of African American male depression, and thankfully he is not alone.

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