As the young adult Black culture has evolved over the years, we have become more and more obsessed with being “real.” It seems as if these days, everyone is a “real nigga.” But what does this truly entail? What is “real”? If you were to ask the majority claiming to be “real” to define it, we would get numerous answers, all mostly boasting their particular individual strengths and talents. “Real niggas do this; real niggas do that.” As a people, we have an unwillingness to air out our weaknesses or shortcomings or even to admit them, especially when it comes to mental health. OH NO! That doesn’t exist in our society.
There is a stigma in our society that mental disabilities do not affect black men. Why? Because that would mean to admit weakness and to look weak, especially in the presence of other men, is never an option. Results from a study done in 2013 by Ward, Wiltshire, Detry, and Brown revealed that Black people “hold beliefs related to stigma, psychological openness, and help-seeking, which in turn affect their coping behaviors.” It was noted that the participants under study were not open to accepting psychological problems, with the majority of that group being male. Consistent with other studies, the participants were very apprehensive about seeking professional help for mental health issues.
Let’s REALLY Keep It Real
We need to redirect what it is to be real. In denying our weak parts, we do not give ourselves the opportunity to grow and become better and stronger men. We are stifling each other and ourselves by allowing this sort of mentality to continue. This is why I am challenging my fellow Black Men to face their problems and weaknesses. As an advocate for therapy from personal experience, I would encourage everyone who feels they may be suffering from some sort of mental health issue to talk to someone about it. You don’t need to seek professional help immediately, but start with someone you trust that will be open just to listen to you open up. You don’t always need advice or others opinions, but you do need to get these feelings and thoughts out of your head.
There is power and freedom in telling your story and becoming vulnerable. So I will be first. My name is Kyle Ball, and I suffer from a constant feeling of inadequacy and depression. Though I have accomplished much in my 24 years of life, I have failed many times in many areas. There are periods when I lose all motivation for no apparent reason, and I feel as if I’ll never truly reach my true potential. I believe that I am my own harshest critic and often let my thoughts discourage me from doing things. When I face failure, I find myself in a place of despair and sadness, often wanting to give up instead of trying again.
This is very hard to admit, but in the past, I have had thoughts of hurting myself, even going as far as contemplating suicide. But this attitude did not develop instantly. By letting my life’s problems affect me, bottling up my emotions, and not knowing how to cope with failure, I created my own mental prison of constant inadequacy. Never opening up to anyone about how I felt, I allowed myself to remain trapped inside this prison.
The Truth Will Set You Free. Write In.
As of late, my girlfriend has been my confidant for these feelings of inadequacy. Never once did she judge me or make me seem like I was less of a man for feeling how I felt. She always encourages and inspires me to reach for my dreams and never let anything get in my way or stop me from going forward. If any of you reading this ever need an outlet or a means to express yourself, please reach out to someone, even me (Kylerball1@gmail.com). I would like to start a column on FPM where we allow you to tell your story and in turn give you the opportunity to set yourself free. You never know whom it will reach or how it could help yourself and others.