Black men must support each other

By Pat Watson Wednesday July 02 2014 in Opinion
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Spring is here! – Why doesn’t my heart go dancing? – Spring is here! – Why isn’t the waltz entrancing? – No desire, no ambition leads me… (Lyrics by Lorenz Hart)


Actually, it is past spring now that June 21 has come and gone, but the melancholy these lyrics signify is very much here at a time of year that most of us look forward to eagerly.


We have just come through a winter that has a special place in the climate record books, and with all the kind of fun waiting ahead – like Toronto’s Carnival-style festival – most people are soaking in the comfortable, albeit brief, respite.


But, if you are among the more than one in 10 persons experiencing a mental illness, it may not matter all that much. It may surprise some to grasp that people who are overcome with the anguish of depression or schizophrenia, or any one of a number of other mind disorders, in their attempt to find relief are more likely to commit suicide during the period when the weather is more tolerable.


Mental health specialists point out that a person with chronic depression may anticipate, like so many of us, a better mood with the increase in daylight and more hospitable temperatures of the spring and summer. However, when they do not experience any internal change they can lose hope and determine that their only relief is to opt out of living altogether.


The rate of suicide among young people is higher than among the older population and it is commonly held that depression, the most common mood disorder, is more prevalent among women. But the rate at which men die by suicide is much higher. Moreover, the rate of depression among Black men is higher than among women in general.


Now, this may all appear as just so much statistical data, but for anyone who has lost a family member or valued friend through depression-related suicide will see their loved one in these facts.


What do we know about the trauma that significant numbers of Black men in this city who have been carded – that is stopped without reason, other than being Black, and aggressively questioned then documented by police officers – now live with? These men when they do tell of these encounters rarely speak of the aftermath. When they do they say that they live with a sense of always being under suspicion, of always being under surveillance.


To cope with the trauma, some turn to self-medicating. Many develop a siege mentality, are easily angered and often very defensive.


They are not understood as having untreated trauma. When a youth from the dominant community commits a terrible act of violence, such as happened recently in Moncton, New Brunswick, one of the first things that emerge in the public discourse is the search to understand why he behaved that way. Should he live beyond the incident, he is automatically given a mental assessment.


The mainstream media will reflexively report on so-called Black crime, shoot-outs between rival gangs, and those kinds of attention getting occurrences. But there is hardly any search for a mental assessment.


In contrast, when a Black youth takes his own life, there is rarely any reporting on that.


We need not wait for mainstream sanctions to take on this critical mental health matter. We must frankly recognize the unspoken challenge too many Black men are barely trying to cope with. They must encourage one another with honest conversation about what they are going through. In doing so, they must also take on the damning fallacy of patriarchy. The benefits will be far reaching.


It is critical that they begin immediately to mass together to share their experiences, to create their own strategies and tools for regaining and then maintaining a healthy psyche. Otherwise, we will continue to lose too many bright lights.

A note on World Cup karma…


Ghana didn’t make it into the final 16 for the next round of eliminations at Brazil’s World Cup. But neither did Luis Suarez, the now-banned striker of Uruguay’s team. Suarez got into trouble when he used his dental-block strategy on Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini to get his team to the next level. It was Suarez’ controversial hand-block strategy that resulted in a penalty shootout back in 2010 which ended with a 4-2 Ghana loss, robbing them of their best hope at that time.

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