Depression, anxiety and other disorders clearly have had a remarkable impact on society—both positive and negative. Social media and medical outlets report on various aspects of mental illness regularly. However, the voices of Black men are often not part of the conversation. With this in mind, I had the honor and opportunity to interview two Black men about mental health in our society.
Levar Johnson is an entrepreneur, motivational speaker, husband, and father of two.
Ace R is co-founder of a brain health research foundation and a leader in the field of HIV.
Through their eyes, we can learn the importance of addressing what’s plaguing the minds and spirits of many Black men today.
BlackDoctor.org: How important do you feel it is to address the mental health of men, particularly men of color, right now? Why?
Levar: Mental health is very ignored amongst men of color because of the perception that is shows weakness. Men naturally want to lead and appear strong and admitting that I may not be healthy mentally doesn’t line up with showing strength. On the other hand, mental health is ignored by parents when it comes to their boys. It’s always been important and even more important now that we change the perception amongst men of color. We need a new attitude of being a real man is getting help and communicating your feelings.
Ace: The behavioral health needs of men of color have not been addressed in any systematic way for men of color. High levels of stigma still remain in communities within the Black Diaspora in addition to Latino ones as well. It is imperative that we focus on supporting families that have been decimated by disproportionate incarceration, police contact, and sustained lack of community investment in regards to education and vocational development. It is short-sighted to believe that these issues can be overcome without professional support. The brain is no different than any other organ in the body. If it is injured, professionals should be engaged just like if you break your leg or have cardiac failure.