The Black Man’s Mental Health

Men Are Human Too

Recently, there has been a lot of reports of people in the limelight committing suicide, be it internationally or locally (South Africa). To name a few, it was unfortunate that the likes of Cheslie Kryat (former Miss USA), Ian Alexander (Regina King’s son), Patrick Shai (Lengendary South African actor), and most recently, Rikhado “Ricky Rick” Makhado (South African Hip Hop icon) committed suicide. As the people who knew of them mourned with their families and friends, there also seemed to be a mental health awareness that came from it. Interestingly, even though one cannot prepare for someone’s untimely death, the death of a man of colour via suicide seems to give people a hard wake-up call. It appears men, especially men of colour, are always expected to be “strong”, that meaning, not showing emotions and being vulnerable, which is unfair, and needless to say, unhealthy.

In a short conversation with her, Pelaelo Masalesa, a Clinical Psychologist based in South Africa, helped us to unpack the black man’s mental health.

Ms Pelaelo Masalesa.
A young black Clinical Psychologist in South Africa, based in Pretoria. She is passionate about working with couples, children and the LGBTQI+ community in therapy, as well as serving in the black community.

Important Points from Conversation

Mental Health is Transforming

For a long time, there has been a lot of misconceptions about mental health and mental health care services, especially in the black community. However, recently, there seems to have been a change in the way that people perceive mental health. There has been a lot of transformation, which is evident in the number of black people who seek mental health care services. Black men are more open to seeking psychological help. The elderly are also open to seeking psychological help, which is amazing to witness.

Even though people are starting to acknowledge the importance of one’s mental health, there are still a lot of people who do not understand it and/or do not seek the psychological help that they need because of the fear of being perceived in a negative light. Hence, it is important for more mental health campaigns to focus on being inclusive, considering that all people experience hardships and need support. Even though the focus of mental health campaigns is mainly on the elderly and females, the stats of men committing suicide should be proof enough that men ought to also be focused on.

Suicidality on the Rise (In Celebrities and Everyday People)

Recently, there has been a lot of reports of individuals in the limelight committing suicide. These reports of suicide have alarmed a lot of people, making it seem like suicide is something that is only happening now, and only happening to people who are prominent in society. However, suicide is something that, unfortunately, happens every single day to all types of people. However, the heightened shock that follows the suicide of a celebrity is due to people’s perceptions of their lives and their unrealistic expectations on them.

There seems to be a certain expectation for individuals in the limelight to always be well and healthy because of what they seemingly possess (i.e. fame, money, luxurious homes, etc.). Therefore, they are expected to not talk about any psychological struggles that they might have, which often leads to them suppressing a lot of their struggles and/or not having the necessary support that they need at the time. Hence, when prominent people in society commit suicide, people tend to be surprised, and it also becomes highlighted because it is a person of such a caliber. Be that as it may, it is important for people to understand that celebrities are human beings too, and so, experience hardships as well, be it psychological, financial, physical, social, spiritual, etc.

The Black Man’s Mental Health

The rate at which men are committing suicide in South Africa is alarming. Of course, there are a lot of factors that might contribute to one wanting to commit suicide, with upbringing being one of the factors.

A lot of men are told, from as young as 5 years old, to not cry because they need to be ‘strong’. This definition of strong means: ‘Do not be vulnerable, it will mean you are weak and people will undermine you.’ If a man is to ever show emotion, or talk about their struggles, they are most likely to be ridiculed. So, they end up having to endure a lot of hardships all by themselves and pretending to be well. It is a lot of pressure to put on an individual, and it is understandable why they would feel like they can no longer take it. It is isolating.

As soon as people learn to normalise men being vulnerable and expressing their emotions, the healthier we will be as a society. When one decides to commit to seeking psychological help, they are not only working on improving their mental health, but also that of those around them. There would be a ripple effect, in the sense that individuals would model healthy behaviours for one another. So, everyone ought to seek help when necessary.

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