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Are stressed out black men ignoring their mental health?

CRISIS POINT: African Caribbean men must learn to ignore beliefs that seeking help for mental health issues is weak

IT'S NOW well documented that black men in the UK are disproportionately represented in the mental health system.

Within the medical community and beyond the debate is on-going in trying to understand what causes these shocking disparities within society.

They are one of the groups in society least likely to go and see their doctor and seek help for more common everyday problems such as stress due to relationship problems, unemployment, discrimination, bereavement etc.

Early management of these conditions could avoid some of the more complicated and long term mental health issues developing like depression, anxiety and insomnia.

Like most men, black men have been taught that it is important to manage and control their emotions and not talk about their problems. Acknowledging that you’re not coping can be viewed as a sign of weakness. However, this thinking can lead to feelings of loneliness and isolation or reliance on substances like alcohol.


When problems develop at work or in their relationships at home, men should be encouraged to go and talk about things rather than bottling it up.

Just the simple act of expressing feelings to an empathic counsellor in a confidential environment can create a release or a space to think about things more clearly.

Being perceived and diagnosed with mental health issues is difficult for most people, but perhaps more so for men who have been conditioned by society to believe that they should be strong. They are more reluctant to seek help when things become difficult to manage, as acknowledging that I am not coping, brings on feelings of shame.


So they ‘man up’ and put on a brave front to protect themselves and their loved ones.

The sad fact is that too many men are not accessing psychological therapies that would support them in overcoming their difficulties. As a result, things are left for so long that when they do come into contact with the health services the symptoms have become much more extreme and may involve psychiatric medication or the police.

Charities such as Greenwich MIND offer free counselling and have an African & Caribbean counselling department. The service specialises in meeting the needs of men and women from this background and the counsellors speak different African languages and Jamaican patois (patwah).

Greenwich MIND has also recently set up a black men’s support group where specific concerns such as stress, discrimination and self-esteem can be discussed and explored in a safe and confidential environment.

Should you or someone you know need 1-2-1 or group support, please contact The African & Caribbean Counselling Department at Greenwich MIND 020 8853 2395. The 1-2-1 counselling services and the group are free for residents of Greenwich.

In this season of the Olympics and the Paralympics let’s make a real effort to reach out to our men and encourage them to get the support they need so that they can live more fulfilling lives and shine!

Phoenix Gentles is a counsellor at Greenwich MIND and facilitates the men’s group.

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