Investing in Black Mental Health – Charlamagne Tha God, Ryan Mundy and Anthony Hamilton

Investing in Black Mental Health – Charlamagne Tha God, Ryan Mundy and Anthony Hamilton

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Since age unknown, society and culture have defined what it is to be a man. Masculine traits such as strength, courage, and assertiveness have been celebrated whereas feminine traits such as compassion, understanding, and nurturance have been vilified. 

Black masculinity has increasingly been defined by forms of hyper-masculine men. Film, literature, music, and sports have all pushed forward a singular narrative of a Black man celebrated for his physical prowess but with limited intellectual capacity. 

While popular culture has glamorized this depiction of the Black male, it has severely undermined his ability to seek help and heal during an ongoing mental health crisis in America. It is well known that police brutality, institutional racism, and the ongoing effects of the pandemic are responsible for adverse mental health outcomes. According to the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities, Black Americans are 20 percent more likely to experience serious psychological distress, such as major depressive disorder, than white Americans. As mental health challenges continue to rise within the Black community, many are not willing to seek the limited help that is available.

In the past few years, several voices have grouped to redefine what Black masculinity means and to promote a progressive model of Black mental health. In a recent panel on ‘The Breakfast Club’, multimedia personality Charlamagne Tha God joined Ryan Mundy, Jason Wilson, and Jay Barnett to discuss Black Men and Mental Health. 

Charlamagne, who is known for co-hosting hip hop’s most successful radio show, ‘The Breakfast Club,’ has lately combined his love for media with a passion that is more true to his nature – mental health advocacy. Speaking to his panelists – he described how adopting the label of a mental health advocate was a shift that naturally occurred once he began allowing his authentic self to reclaim space and finally heal.

“I don’t think I had a choice,” said Charlamagne. “If you pride yourself on being authentic and you pride yourself on being honest. If you’ve gotten caught up on being a caricature of yourself and you’re wearing a mask, that mask is heavy. I don’t even know if it was something I set an intention to do, it might have been more so like a cry for help. Letting people know that I deal with anxiety and depression and things of that nature. And then running across brothers like this. You know they give me the strength and the courage to just be more open and more honest.”

Adopting a more inclusive approach to defining what a man is

While redefining Black masculinity enables more men to seek help for mental health, some like Jason Wilson (best-selling author of Cry Like a Man: Fighting for Freedom from Emotional Incarceration) believe that change must come from within. Men must learn to accept that they are an amalgamation of different traits, both masculine and feminine. There are times when strength and courage are required, but most of the time it is traits such as compassion and understanding that allow you to successfully navigate problems.

Traditional roles of masculinity often prevent Black men from showing vulnerability and seeking help. In his national best-selling book, Shook One: Anxiety Playing Tricks On Me, Charlamagne Tha God highlighted the difficulties faced by a Black man on his healing journey. Based on a real-life account of Charlemagne’s life, the book follows a novel approach by relaying stories told by Charlamagne with commentary by psychiatrist, Dr. Ish Majors, in the backdrop. 

Charlamagne, who suffered from anxiety and depression since he was young, is now using his growing platform to promote Black mental health. Well aware of the unique challenges faced by those in the Black community, Charlamagne recently formed an organization called the Mental Wealth Alliance (MWA). The MWA – is a forward-thinking foundation, created to destigmatize, accelerate, and center state-of-the-art mental health outreach and care across the U.S. while building an unprecedented long-term system of generational support for Black Communities. “We want to provide free therapy services to more than 10 million Black Americans over the next five years. And, we plan to do that through raising money,” he explains. “We want to train the next generation of psychiatrists [and] therapists, we want to be able to provide them with scholarships and money to where they can get their certification, especially Black and brown people.”

For many individuals who are willing to take the first step towards healing and improving their mental health, organizations such as the MWA are pivotal. The traditional healthcare system creates barriers for Black men, due to historic distrust of the medical system and a lack of culturally competent therapists, who are crucial for the mental health of Black communities. Such therapists understand and support the unique experiences, challenges, and values of Black individuals and communities.

How important is it for men to heal?

The importance of men’s healing can be deduced from the impact men have on the society they are living in. “George Floyd’s death was so monumental for us as Black men because it allowed the world to see us as human beings.” “And now that the world’s eye is on us and as we’re healing and as we’re going through this journey, it’s so important for us to begin healing our boys, because our boys are emulating exactly what they see men do,” said mental health coach and speaker, Jay Barnett. 

Improved mental health can lead to better communication, healthier relationships, and reduced conflict, which can have a positive impact on families and communities. Moreover, mental health issues can have a significant economic impact. Mental illness is a leading cause of disability, and the cost of untreated mental health issues can result in lost productivity and increased healthcare costs. Therefore, addressing mental health issues among men is not only essential for their well-being but also for the overall health and prosperity of society.

Published by Jean Reyes

Jean Reyes is a passionate advocate for justice and social change. She has dedicated her life to empowering individuals who are underserved and underrepresented in her local community. Jean is a graduate of the University of California, Los Angeles, where she studied sociology, and she is currently working as a community organizer for Operation Infinite Justice. Jean is committed to creating a more equitable and just world through education, advocacy, and activism.

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