This month is National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month and as a black man, I understand the importance of mental health awareness in my own community. However, other communities may not understand the mental pressures that black men face in this country, and how it can have adverse effects on our health.
When I lay down to rest at night, I feel like I am finally able to remove some of the masks that I have to wear throughout the day. It is such a weight lifted off of my shoulders.
Every morning, I look at my schedule and I must think about whom I may run into that day. This daily routine determines what mask I will wear.
I have masks for the business world, with friends and in relationships but the societal mask is the most profound. This mask embodies trauma, fear, anger, and sadness; all things that I, as a black man, carry around each and every day. The troubling part is that I never take this mask off.
This mask has a tremendous effect on the mental health of a black man. In the last couple of days, two men were gun downed by individuals who were sworn to protect and serve. Unfortunately, these are not unique incidents in this country and spans over generations. I was taught to wear this mask at a very young age because it is no secret that a uniform negates my values, as a man. As a result, I am always uptight to make sure I don’t give someone a reason to gun me down or arrest me based on preconceived notions about MY community.
As an advocate for mental health, I know how an overwhelming amount of stress can affect you. I suggest that people find a safe place to begin the process of getting better by alleviating some of that pressure, but where is our safe place in this country?
How can we relax when we are always wearing masks because black men are not accepted for who we truly are - PEOPLE!
Yes, we get happy, sad, mad, and all of the other feelings that other people experience. And when I see someone’s life taken, I can’t help but think that it could have been me. So truly think about how mentally healthy I am with this always on my mind.
My thoughts and prayers are with the families of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, and the many other lives lost these acts.