Guest writer: Dr. Phillip E. Graham, Doctor of Philosophy I in Counseling Psychology |WGC| Uprising
Mental Health (MH) has been a major buzz word as of late; it’s a term that has been in heavy rotation in the zeitgeist, on the tip of our tongues, burning our ears and on the pulse of this generation. However, as a culture we have become increasingly desensitized to MH issues, at least based on many of the comments on social media in regards to issues surrounding this topic. Black mental health is in a state of crisis and the collective conscious is on the verge of a nervous breakdown. However, the Black community has seemingly been left out of the conversation about MH. Black women have shown an increase in post-partum depression, Black children are being ushered in to special needs classes, which has inadvertently created a direct route to the preschool-to-prison pipeline, and suicide rates have increased significantly just to name a few.
Despite the fact that MH concerns have reached an all-time-high, there are very few celebrities, artist and people talking about it, with the exception of Charlemagne tha God, Taraji P. Henson, J. Cole and Kendrick Lamar. Yussha Assad and Raheem Devaughn have decided to take on the challenge of discussing MH concerns among Black men with his latest track, Heal Me. This song is a breath of fresh air as he speaks to many of problems that are crippling Black men emotionally. Researchers suggest, of all the health concerns faced by Black men, mental health challenges may be among the most stigmatized (Holden, McGregor, Blanks, & Mahaffey, 2012; Watkins & Jefferson,2013). Raheem starts singing over staccato piano composition and Yusha begins to engage in a dialog that takes place between father and son on a conscious and subconscious level.
Yusha recalls stories of fatherhood that I’m sure many of us can relate to, of how often men prefer to swallow their pain without a healthy outlet. In many ways, we are our own worst enemies. As Black men, we have been taught to reject seeking and asking for help, challenge conventional wisdom, and many of us continue to perpetuate antiquated beliefs about masculinity. Far too often we internalize our feelings and project our insecurities on to our children, passing down trauma as a rite of passage. We have been conditioned to not show our vulnerabilities and many of us relish in the display of our most toxic traits to validate our perception of manhood. Yusha addresses all of these facets in his latest track and many of the lyrics of his song resonated with me in very profound ways.
As a psychotherapist, I couldn’t help but recall the litany of sessions with young Black men that have reiterated this troupe. Yusha provides an antidote about the deeply complited relationship we have as men opening up and expressing our needs. While he tells a very detailed story about a narrative that is very common, what I enjoyed most is that he also provided sound and rational interventions to help shift the social consciousness to a state of healing and awareness. He identifies healthy coping mechanisms such as exorcise, yoga, meditation, journaling and talk therapy to sublimate for anxiety, depression, fear, doubt and worries. As men, we all experience these things on some level but we are not often comfortable talking about it. Who are we going to talk to about our problems without sounding weak or needy? When is it acceptable to express our concerns and who can bear the burden of our problems?
I recently read a meme posted by @Cthagod which states: “You are not responsible for the programming you received in childhood. As an adult, you are absolutely responsible for fixing it.” Iyanla Vanzant said that “If trauma can be passed down, then so can healing.” Despite not having the tools to adequately address our issues, perhaps the approach to internal healing can be found in the lyrics of this song. To speak is to release, to release is to no longer internalize which has metaphysical, psychological, and emotional healing properties. There is a spiritual adage that states, “Life and death is in the power of the tongue” Proverbs 18:21. We can speak health, wealth, healing, and prosperity into our lives; unfortunately, the converse is just as true. Nonetheless, words alone cannot change ones’ circumstances. It’s the actions that we put behind our words that make the difference.
If you can take one thing away from this song, other than a dope beat, masterful lyrics and the soothing sound of Raheem Devaughn; remember this, expressing emotions does not compromise your masculinity; it’s okay to ask for help; you’re not alone; and “you can believe in God and see a therapist” (source unknown). If you are in need of help, there are plenty of Black Doctors seeking to support. For additional resources, check out my podcast 6 Degrees of Black Mental Health or visit https://www.abpsi.org/ for a directory of black psychologists near you. I encourage you to read and listen closely to the lyrics of this song by Yusha Assad, it may provide you with the strength to seek the help you need.
Listen now to HEAL ME, HERE
Dr. Phillip E. Graham
Doctor of Philosophy in Counseling Psychology