Black Men & Trauma

Today I had the amazing opportunity to talk to one of my old high school friends. Over the years I have watched her grow. Thank God for social media! We were always able to keep in touch and say “Hey Girl!” now and then. Her posts and messages on social media always grabbed my attention. The girl is damn brilliant! She would post issues that plague the African American community, she would discuss motherhood and spirituality. She even had the pleasure of speaking in front of the great Dr.Cornell West. She believed in most of what I believed in so I had to get her on my join me on my social media to drop some knowledge.

Before the words could even escape my mouth, she expressed that we should discuss “Black Men”. That girl must have read my mind, i swear I think she has telepathy. While discussing black men we brought up things that pose a major concern within the black community, specifically Black men and trauma. Why is it that so many black men remain silent after experiencing trauma? Why don’t they seek out therapy, even resources to support their healing?

First lets look at the statistics shall we?

  • African Americans are more likely to have feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and worthlessness than adult whites.
  • Blacks and African Americans are less likely than white people to die from suicide at all ages. However, Black and African American teenagers are more likely to attempt suicide than White teenagers (9.8 percent v. 6.1 percent).
  • Studies examining trauma exposure among community samples of Black males show that approximately 62% have directly experienced a traumatic event in their lifetime, 72% witnessed a traumatic event, and 59% have learned of a traumatic event involving a friend or family member
  • Trauma has been identified as a major public health and medical issue, and Black males ages 18 and older are at a noticeably high risk for trauma exposure.
  • Homicide rates for Black males are 26.77 per 100,000 compared to 2.67 per 100,000 for their White counterparts, and they are roughly three times more likely than White men to be victims of a nonfatal injury by firearm.

The statistics are shocking and very frightening. Many black males who experience a traumatic event will go on with their lives without persistent lasting negative outcomes, but other men may experience traumatic stress that lead to mental and/or behavioral outcomes. Young men of color in communities where violence is prevalent can develop post-traumatic stress disorder from events they have experienced or witnessed. For example witnessing physical abuse, being a victim of physical and sexual abuse, witnessing drug abuse seeing a person they love get killed in front of them or knowing someone close to them who has been killed. Those experiences shape, mold, and determine how the male will view the world and the people in it. Many African Americans lack access to the health care system, so they self-medicate with alcohol or drugs, or sexual promiscuity. This can impair their ability to get a job, so they fall into illicit and illegal activities. It can impair their ability to get a proper education. Black men don’t trust the police to protect them, so they carry a gun. This can lead to violent interactions, incarceration or death. Throughout Men’s lives, racism amplifies the lack of opportunities they face.

With acknowledging this information, what can we do as black women to support black men who have experienced trauma? How can we love them through their healing process? During my live interview with my high school friend Ashley she discussed some of the reasons why so many black men experience trauma and why most don’t or wont seek the help they require.

Self Love

This is a piece of our conversation on self love.

Me: “How can we help men to navigate and heal from trauma”?

Ashley: “What’s interesting is what i learned on my journey is understanding that you heal naturally when you first have learned to heal thyself, and what happens is the love abound within you should be on a frequency level, that is spiritual. See there’s no denying the spiritual. Spritually and loving unconditionally dosent necessarily mean we will be around them to take on their pain, but by loving unconditionally given the spirit and frequency, it offers up a certain level of perspective that allow men to change their thinking which then causes them to go in and do their individual work and heal”.

Me: “Wow”

Ashley: “For me, when i look at the black man ecspecialy men i have i personally dealt with i notice the same line of defense, every man is operating from thier trauma and their spritual awareness, or lack there of”.

Me: “I agree some men are disconnected from spirituality”.

Ashley: “Yea, When a black man is not aware of his spirituality he is weakened by the human experience. That human experience is very dramatic, its very emotionally imbalanced, its very toxic, and there’s no power, no authentic living, there is no real love, they become hardened then we become hardened. We take on this energy, the roles get switched and next thing you know, there is no submission, there is no submission to each other, there’s no submission to purpose, there’s no submission to the internal being that is, and then we are out of whack”.

Me: nodding my head

Ashley: Language is also important. Being on that spiritual journey requires acceptance. Prayer is a form of language. Where are you praying from? a lot of black men they pray from a spirit of begging “lord if you just give me this ill stop”, women do it too, but it’s the spirit of begging, not knowing that what you say is so, not knowing and understanding that as a black man you have the authority to dictate and control how you think, but you’ve been bombarded with improper food, drinking alcohol, things that minimize your vibration, Bad toxic previous relationships, and beliefs that don’t serve you”.

Me” Yes, Yes!”

Ashley: “We put a lot of responsibility on the black man, which there is a responsibility but, as a woman, you came from my womb i carry the “burden” of your trauma now because our families have been torn apart by racism, by slavery, by the oppressive society all the way down to the welfare system where the black man is not allowed to be in the home if you want to collect food stamps and aide for your home, your not allowed to have a dual family home.

Me: “So that self love takes time”?

Ashley: “Yes! loving thyself doesn’t happen over night because it a journey, but we want that self love to come quick, like instant gratification that’s our problem. As a black man, especially as a black woman, self love is not just saying “i love myself”, its literally combing through the nuts and bolts, the trauma, the pain, the justification for being angry, the “you were wrong you hurt me”, all of that energy being able to take that and observe it, not identifying with it and letting it pass creates a level of abundance and prosperity of which they cant fuck with. Create the foundation of loving thy self first”.

Me: “Wow, what are other things that we can do as black women to support black men”?

Ashley: “Listen! shut up and listen not everything needs to be a discussion, every error he makes dosent need to be corrected by you, natural consequences are the best teachers in life, just be there, help him push through. Be supportive offer little sentiments like text messages that encourage him saying “i hope you have a great day”.”When you walk past a black man on the street, smile and say “hey black man, i hope you have a great day.”

Stigma

Black and African American hold beliefs related to stigma, psychological openness, and help-seeking, which in turn affects their coping behaviors. African American men are particularly concerned about stigma. Stigma and judgment prevent African American people from seeking treatment for their mental illnesses. However, it is important to note that reservations against treatment may be rooted in actual experiences of racism and encounters with medical professionals lacking cultural awareness. Research indicates that Blacks and African Americans believe that mild depression or anxiety would be considered “crazy” in their social circles. Furthermore, many believe that discussions about mental illness would not be appropriate to speak about even among family. Many African Americans also have concerns about treatment effectiveness, which may be due to both lack of education and cultural beliefs. Apprehension about clashing with the morals or worldview of the clinician can cause ambivalence about seeking help, and this may be especially true for the many who believe that mental health treatment was designed by white people for white people.

Financial And Other Factors

Many black men lack financial resources to for mental health treatment. Most don’t have the extra income or health insurance to seek treatment. African Americans also view the typical psychologist as an older, white male or white female who would be insensitive to the social and economic realities of their lives. In the psychology profession there aren’t many therapists or psychiatrist that look the black men who require treatment. Work, family responsibilities, commitments, and transportation issues can overshadow the need for therapy, Another way to reduce fears is to offer free assessments and phone consultations, which will help familiarize potential patients with the clinic, clinician, and treatment. Clinicians might use initial contacts to address fears of being involuntarily hospitalized by explaining the difference between typical mental health challenges and “being crazy”.

Hearing the reality of black men and how they deal with trauma opened my eyes. I now hold so much appreciation for black men. So much is put on their shoulders, and as black women, its critical that the black man feels loved and supported, he needs to know that we will be there in his corner when his world seems to be falling apart. As black people we also need to acknowledge that this “system” that was made for us will not go away. My Friend Ashley had this to say about the “system”. “The system is not going to change, you have to change. As a black man or black woman you must step inside your divinity, your power, your spirit, and operate from that power source in order for you to not even be affected by whats happening in this world today, that’s the only way”.

BLACK MEN WE LOVE YOU!

BLACK MEN WE NEED YOU!

BLACK MEN YOU ARE IMPORTANT!

BLACK MEN YOU ARE APPRECIATED!

If you would like to view more of our conversation

Follow me on Instagram @theofficialblackgirldiaries

Featured Photo: Rawpixel

References:

CDC. (2018). Health United States, 2017 Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/hus/hus17.pdf

Exposure to trauma: a comparison of cocaine-dependent cases and a community-matched .Afful SE, Strickland JR, Cottler L, Bierut LJDrug Alcohol Dependancy. 2010 Nov 1;46-53

Cuff R, & Matheson FI (2015). Women, trauma & incarceration: What they say, how we work. Retrieved from http://content.govdelivery.com/accounts/USDOJBOPNIC/bulletins/111206c

Race/ethnic differences in exposure to traumatic events, development of post-traumatic stress disorder, and treatment-seeking for post-traumatic stress disorder in the United States.Roberts AL, Gilman SE, Breslau J, Breslau N, Koenen KCPsychol Med. 2011 Jan;71-83

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Division of Analysis, Research, and Practice Integration. (2016). 2014 Violence-related all injury causes nonfatal injuries and rates per 100,000. http://webappa.cdc.gov/sasweb/ncipc/nfirates2001.html

Treatment barriers for low-income, urban African Americans with undiagnosed posttraumatic stress disorder.Davis RG, Ressler KJ, Schwartz AC, Stephens KJ, Bradley RGJ Trauma Stress. 2008 Apr; 21. 218-22

CDC. (2019). Summary Health Statistics: National Health Interview Survey: 2017 https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/nhis/shs/tables.htm

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