Human resources

From therapy to yoga, resources are emerging to redefine black mental health

PHILADELPHIA – Stigma, lack of access and lack of confidence are all factors as to why black Americans – and black men in particular – are less likely to receive mental health support.

But some are trying to redefine black mental health, in their own cities and across the country.

Sudan Green is one of them. Its redefinition goes through yoga.

“Yoga is meant to clear the mind,” Green said. “It’s a bit of joy.”

This morning, he’s training in a park named after Malcolm X, several blocks from his home in West Philadelphia.

“Being black, your mind is always racing, thinking about things,” he said. “Yoga is a time when I don’t have to think.”

All around Green’s hometown, murals show black faces and voices. Almost all of them show struggle, or persistence through struggle. Put together, they show an endless burden.

“There’s no more like ‘I have to tell you a story for you to understand this’,” he said. “It’s like, ‘Just go look at it all. Go see Black Trauma. Go look at the statistics on black mental health.

These statistics are astounding. A Department of Health and Human Services report found black Americans were half as likely as white Americans to receive mental health services, but more likely to express feelings of sadness – and almost twice as likely likely to claim, in life, that “everything is an effort.” Black men asked for much less help than black women, but they were four times more likely to kill themselves.

“Witnessing oppression impacts everyone,” said Dr. Howard Stevenson, professor at the University of Pennsylvania. “If there has been a police shootout in one neighborhood, we know that over the next few months, a lot of people in that community, in this larger neighborhood, will experience trauma. “

Black men who seek help learn that they are barely represented among mental health professionals.

“A lot of people don’t want someone they also see as their abuser in the world as a therapist,” Green said. therapy. It is not for you. There are a lot of people against black men who try to ask for help. “

Green believes in therapy. He believes in yoga and meditation. Last summer, the death of George Floyd prompted millions of people to demonstrate. In Philadelphia, this led him to create a group called Spirits Up. They’ve held yoga sessions in public spaces and brought hundreds of black Philadelphians, including to this park named after Malcolm X. For the past 18 months, in person and online, Green and Spirits Up have built an audience.

“It’s definitely welfare as a protest,” he said. “We were at our worst. So we needed something to make us look our best.”

Today, resources are increasing. A man from Baltimore started the Black Male Yoga Initiative. Groups like Therapy for Black Men and Black Men Heal list color therapists in American cities. Green assesses the next steps of Spirits Up, never neglecting its value to the community.

“The mere reflection of seeing someone like you do something,” Green said, “is really important.”