Dr. Obari Cartman (Photo credit: Sona Smith)

Mental health can be a taboo subject in the Black community. In
many circles, the admission of having a mental health issue can
bring about shame and
embarrassment
. According to the US Department of Health and
Human Services, the suicide death rate for Black men was more than
four times greater than rates for Black women in 2014.

Dr. Obari Cartman has created an open space to discuss this at
his event, 4:44, a mental health roundtable for Black men. We
spoke with Dr. Cartman about mental illness and resources
available for treatment.

Why would you say Black men’s mental health is something
that is not addressed properly?

Men who are well, people who are well, mentally physically
spiritually, are more powerful people. There are a lot of folks
currently in positions of power [who] are very invested in
Black sickness. I think it’s really starting to hit us that our
healing is gonna have to be addressed by us for us.

What would you say are some of the contributing factors to
mental illness?

Historical trauma. Spiritual warfare. Poverty. Racism.
Depression is caused by oppression.

What are your thoughts on the high incarceration rates for
Black men in relation to mental health issues not being
checked?

America has been crystal clear about its dependence on the
control of Black bodies for survival. We gotta stop playing
into the program. We need to develop more efficient independent
economic systems to lure our people away from activities that
put them in the hands of the system of incarceration. Which
includes loosening all our dependence on the police, don’t call
911. If we see an altercation, if someone is acting strange, we
need be more organized to be able to call up local councils to
come address the issue, to mediate conflicts ourselves, to
prevent them by instilling more communal values in our
children.

What would be the best way to approach someone you feel is
struggling with mental health?


Listen
to them. Intentionally. With your whole being. It’s
a sacrifice. You have to offer valuable time and space, be
willing to help carry a burden. But so often sickness festers
because it’s trapped inside someone. Just being heard and
understood can be healing all by itself. Then try to connect
them with some person place or thing that invigorates their joy
and peace. If there’s a healthy activity you know they but
don’t have the energy or clarity to do themselves, then you
take them and do it with them.

This roundtable that is being held Oct. 14 around
the subject of Black men’s mental health it is being centered
around Jay Z’s most recent release, 4:44. Talk about
why you decided to do this and why this specific release makes
the conversation more palpable.

When Beyonce’s Lemonade was released, I saw a lot
more events where women came together to heal, discuss and
support each other. A lot of the conversation I’ve seen men
have about 4:44 has been limited to his political or
economic statements. But Jay-Z offers us so much more of an
opportunity to reflect on our socialization as men, the way we
harm and have been harmed, emotional stuff, things that have
been traditionally more difficult for men to talk about. So I
want to focus on that part.

What can people expect to learn from this event?
To be reaffirmed that Black men are so diverse, yet share many
commonalities. That we are in pain and sometimes don’t know
what to do with it. That we are becoming more aware of the ways
we cause pain to others we love and genuinely want to be
better. That it’s okay for men to let their guard down for a
moment when the proper safe space is created and when we decide
to be courageous about it.

What resources would you recommend to Black men dealing with
mental health issues?

My book Lady’s Man: Conversations for Young Black Men about
Manhood and Relationships
. I’ve struggled with the
shameless plug idea. But the more I realize how popular,
accessible and well resourced more the more problematic
narratives about manhood are, the more I feel it my duty to
promote my work. Migos, Lil Uzi Vert, and nem don’t have any
shame about promoting their version of manhood so why should I?
I wrote it because it’s the medicine we need. But I don’t have
the infrastructure behind me to distribute it as widely as it’s
needed, so thank you always for allowing me the opportunity to
speak and share. To help us be our own media, tell our own
stories, and be our own healing.

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