Mental health as a man of colour

Ameen talks about his experience with mental health as a person of colour.

Male mental health is certainly a topic which is neglected in the modern era as evidenced by the fact that in England, around 1 in 8 men have a common mental health problem. If this isn’t something to be concerned about, then quite frankly, I don’t know what is. It’s easy for someone to say ‘Oh, just man up’, ‘Get over it’, ‘Why are you so emotional?!’ but the reality is that men struggle to open up about their emotions and feelings due to the societal stigma which has been attached to it. We as a society often label men who talk about their emotions as weak and feminine, not realising that we are all humans and emotions are genderless.

What makes this worse is if you are a person of colour, it often becomes a struggle trying to navigate or receive therapy. I am of Pakistani descent and I am aware of the lack of support for the BAME community which needs to be addressed.

We as a society often label men who talk about their emotions as weak and feminine, not realising that we are all humans and emotions are genderless.

Ameen's EXPERIENCE

My name is Ameen. I am an Undergraduate Psychology student as well as a Mental Health blogger who runs the Ameen’s Canopy blog site. Being male, I have noticed in my own personal life that if I’m feeling a bit down and express emotion in front of others, people automatically shut me down and become almost shocked that I’m telling them my worries. There is this expectation that a man has to always present himself as strong, firm and sometimes even aggressive. However, that is not the case, a man has feelings too and if you are a man going through mental health issues and you feel you’re not being heard, I can completely understand.

Also, my experience of navigating therapy as a person of colour comes from knowing people in my own community who struggle to find counsellors and therapists who they feel comfortable in speaking to, especially from a religious and cultural perspective. Quite often in local areas there just aren’t enough counsellors from certain ethnic backgrounds in order to accommodate for people of colour like themselves.

My advice to BAME young men

Suicide is the number one killer of men aged under 45 and a lot of this is attributed to the stigma around men talking about mental health and subsequently not seeking help for their mental health. If you are a man suffering from mental health issues, I promise you this; you are not alone.

Suicide is the number one killer of men aged under 45. If you are a man suffering from mental health issues, I promise you this; you are not alone.

If you are a male going through mental health issues and don’t feel comfortable with expressing emotions, trust me when I say it does not help to hide away your emotions. In order to alleviate yourself, you have to relieve your emotions and not bottle them up, because, for me, that is what makes it worse. 

Speak to your loved ones and tell them what you are going through. This will not be easy, however, in order to see light at the end of the tunnel, you must go through what comes in front of you.

Speak to other males around you and bring up the topic of mental health in order to create cohesion and understanding – this will be helpful not just for you, but your friends too.

You may find that there is stigma within your community in regards to mental health issues, this is something that some people do experience. If it is safe for you to do so, and you are able to, talking to family members about mental health and what mental health is can be really useful to breaking down the stigma. Remember, everyone has mental health, just like we have physical health. 

Men get mental illnesses or mental health problems too. 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health issue in their lifetime, so you really aren’t alone! Try talking to one of your friends about the struggles you might be having, it is quite likely that they have been through something similar themselves.

It can be worth getting a BAME therapist as they can understand any cultural barriers in your personal life you are struggling with which can be a huge plus and helpful in your recovery. Speak to family and friends, they may know local counsellors and therapists who come from the same ethnicity as yourself.

When it comes to navigating therapy as a person of colour, it can be tricky because, for example, an individual may be suffering from racialized trauma so it only makes sense to be counselled by someone who understands your situation from a personal standpoint. You can always request that your therapist be a fellow person of colour (although this request might not always be accommodated). 

Resources

There are some great charities and campaigns that are looking to tackle male mental health stigma which you can check out below

The Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) is leading a movement against suicide. Their helpline is open from 5pm-midnight, 365 days a year on 0800 585858. If you prefer, they also have a webchat function available, too.

HUMEN  provides space for men to talk, listen and connect online every Monday at 18:30.

StrongMen is a charity aiming to tackle emotional and mental health issues brought about by the suffering from bereavement.

The Black, African and Asian therapy network is the home of the largest community of Counsellors and Psychotherapists of Black, African, Asian and Caribbean Heritage in the UK. If you can afford therapy (which can be relatively cheap as some therapists offer a sliding scale where you can get therapy as low as £10 a session!)

UK Men’s Sheds Association is an organisation that offers community spaces for men to connect, converse and create. The activities are often similar to those of garden sheds, but for groups of men to enjoy together. They help reduce loneliness and isolation, but most importantly, they’re fun.

The Mental Health Foundation has some highly beneficial information on their website regarding BAME Mental Health and the barriers which exist for people of colour in relation to accessing therapy.

See our other resources