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Black men are less likely to seek mental health treatment than others due to perceptions of masculinity and the lack of viable treatment options available to them.

“We don’t get help even though we are suffering from mental health illnesses,” said Thomas Davis, the owner of Limitless Possibilities LLC, based in the District and has clients in the city, Maryland and Virginia. “There is the idea that I as a Black man [am] strong enough to handle a problem. There are, however, some Black men who won’t seek a therapist because they don’t think they can handle it.”

Davis said statistics reveal 40% of white males will seek the health of a mental health professional while only 25% of Black males will do the same. Plus, Davis noted a study from the National Library of Medicine that says Black men continue to underutilize mental health treatment and have the highest all-cause mortality rates of any racial ethnic group in the country. When Black men do seek help and would prefer a same-race provider, it can be difficult finding Black psychologists, since they still make up only about 4% of the doctoral-level psychology workforce, according to the American Psychological Association’s website in a Jan. 24, 2023, article “Black Men’s Health Matters.”

In general, according to the statistics from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Minority Health, Black adults living below the poverty line are more than twice as likely to report serious psychological distress as U.S. adults who enjoy great financial security.

Howard C. Stevenson, director of the Racial Empowerment Collaborative at the University of Pennsylvania said in the “Black Men’s Mental Health Matters” article said discussing African American males’ reluctance to seek help is not the issue.

“We should place less emphasis on whether Black men are resistant to therapy and more on understanding the contexts in which they already feel comfortable talking about their feelings and traumas,” Stevenson said. “If a Black man can find a treatment that is culturally responsive, that he understands, and that embraces the uniqueness of his difference, he is more likely to use that service.”

Wizdom Powell, an associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Connecticut and director of the university’s Health Disparities Institute said society will benefit if it produces programs that promote Black men’s mental health.

“Interventions shouldn’t be just about healing and restoring Black men, though that would be enough,” she said, according to the “Black Men’s Mental Health Matters” article. “We also need to think about how much talent we’re hemorrhaging by not providing Black men with the proper support. Think of all the innovators, entrepreneurs, scientists, and physicians there would be if Black men weren’t being killed with impunity by police officers and if we were creating spaces for them to heal, grow, and thrive.”

Davis said there are solutions for Black men who are dealing with mental health problems.

“I have an affirmation that people of color have a right to a healthy and full life, and they have the right to feel values and affirmed,” he said. “We need to talk out our problems, whether it is at the barbershop or at the gym while we are working out, talking with our pastor or just meditating.”

Davis added that Black men have different personalities and life experiences, so a one-size fit all model for dealing with mental health challenges is not the best way for professionals to help those who need it.

James Wright Jr. is the D.C. political reporter for the Washington Informer Newspaper. He has worked for the Washington AFRO-American Newspaper as a reporter, city editor and freelance writer and The Washington...

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1 Comment

  1. I don’t usually commend on articles, but this one is interesting and so true. I have worked in the mental health field for over ten years and I see this happening very often in the African American race. Men should not have to think that they are weak if they ask for help, it just means you want more of an prosper and fulfilling life for your family and yourself.

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