Margus D. Morrison, 52, father of three children. Andre Mackneil, 53, murdered on his son’s third birthday. Heyward Patterson, 67, a man who would “give the shirt off his back,” said those who knew him. Former Buffalo Police Lt. Aaron Salter, 55, died a hero.
These are just a few of the 10 fathers, sons, grandmothers and sisters who lost their lives on Saturday, May 14, 2022, while shopping at a Buffalo grocery store when an 18-year-old gunman opened fire targeting Black Americans.
When devastating tragedies such as this happen, it’s difficult to carry on with life “as usual.” Especially when you look at the lost lives and think, “That could’ve been me.”
That heinous act occurred just one week after Mother’s Day. And as we shift to attempting to celebrate Father’s Day on June 19, we’re reminded that there are families in and outside of Buffalo who won’t have their fathers, brothers, uncles and beloved father figures to honor and embrace this year.
But unfortunately, the devastation doesn’t end there. On Wednesday, May 25, 2022, shots rang out inside an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, murdering 19 children and 2 teachers. And in the aftermath, parents and loved ones are left with holes in their hearts as they grapple with paralyzing grief and attempt to make sense of the senseless massacre.
With the effects of these tragedies looming along with the everyday stress of life, it’s more important than ever for society to prioritize mental health.
And while America, as a whole, has made significant strides in doing so for women, the mental wellness of boys and men is often put on the backburner.
If you’re a man, you might know this all too well: boys and men experience mental health struggles too, but it’s often overlooked. Society places an overwhelming amount of pressure on you from an early age to mask your emotions with phrases like, “stop being a baby,” “boys don’t cry,” and “man up.”
Has someone said one of those phrases to you before? Have you said them to a male in your life?
These small words have a big impact on how boys deal (or don’t deal) with their feelings and turn them into men who bottle up their emotions. This pressure can lead to severe mental health issues, including anxiety, depression and even suicidal thoughts.
A study conducted by the American Foundation of Suicide found that men are 3.88 times more likely than women to die by suicide in the United States. Further, the suicide rate for males was 3 to 4 times more than the rate of women between 2000 and 2020.
Yet, a National Health Interview Survey found that nearly 9% of men experienced anxiety or depression on a daily basis. However, only 26% of Black and Hispanic men who participated in the survey reported seeking mental health treatment.
What does all this mean? Black boys and men are suffering in silence. During this Men’s Health Awareness Month, I’m standing up as a professional therapist to say, “No more.”
We as a community must stand up and say …
No more will our boys grow up believing “crying is for girls.”
No more will men feel as though they have to hide their emotions to be considered “real men.”
No more will we allow Hallmark and other commercial promotions to make our fathers feel less significant and important.
No more will males be forced to silently wither away under the societal pressures to “be a man.”
It’s time boys and men know: your mental health is important and we SEE what you’re going through. The media has brainwashed many of us into believing that women’s mental health is more important than men’s, or that you don’t have feelings, but we know that’s not true.
Both men and women need support, and we need to unite to battle mental illness, not act as two teams against each other in the “pain Olympics.”
When tragedy strikes and the world is hurting, it’s not just moms, sisters and grandmothers who hurt. It’s fathers, brothers and grandfathers who feel that pain as well.
So, what can we do as a society to reverse the stigma associated with men’s mental health?
We can start by changing the narrative in our families and communities. We can let our boys know that it’s okay to cry and show their emotions. We can check on our brothers and see how they’re feeling. And we can validate men’s mental health and finally include you in the mental wellness conversation.
It truly takes a village to combat mental health. And that’s why I’m extending a special invitation for you and the men and women in your life to join us for Black Men Talk on Wednesday, June 22.
Our powerhouse panel will engage in candid conversations about men’s mental health. Guest panelists include the author of The Secrets Behind Hurting Black Men, Dr. Martin Valle and Dr. Wayne Beckles, a dynamic speaker, author, and therapist, and Mr. Louis L. Reed, Licensed and Board Certified Addictions Clinician & Senior Director of REFORM Alliance, who will shed light on the struggles Black men are facing and what we can do together to acknowledge and support you through mental health issues.
Now, because we know all work and no play is no fun, we’ll vibe to the soulful tunes of R&B artist Troy Haughton and keep the audience engaged with thought-provoking games and good times.
Our youth need us. And we need you, our brothers, uncles, fathers and grandfathers, to be at your best. Register for Black Men Talk to learn how to get back to your best self. (NOTE: Men and Women are invited).
Men deserve to be acknowledged and celebrated every day of the year, not just Father’s Day. But that “celebration” starts with giving them the space and support they need to deal with depression, anxiety and societal pressures. Boys and men are crumbling under the idea of “what a man should be” and when you join us for Black Men Talk, you’ll find out what you can do to stop that from happening. Save your spot for this must-attend event here.