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Is Black male mental health being ignored?

Chloe Herring | 4/24/2014, 9 a.m.
About 150 people attended an event seeking community-wide solutions to improve mental health in young, Black males last Friday at ...

Suggestions from the Black Male Mental Health Conference were both geared to professionals as well as introspective of Black communities.

Joan Muir, clinical psychologist and family therapist, specifically addressed Black mothers in her presentation called “What Families can do to Produce Successful Black Males.” In speaking with mothers in the audience, she decisively derailed the positive association of ‘momma’s boys.’”

YOUNG, BLACK AND MENTALLY ILL

According to statistics, most Black children have a mother in their lives. Two-parent homes are a rarity in Black communities; only 38 percent of Black children live in two-parent homes. But of all the Black kids who live in single-parent homes, almost all of them live with their mothers – 92 percent compared to a national 69 percent of children parented by their mothers.

Muir said the relationship between Black single mothers and sons is too often detrimental to Black men’s development at the expense of mothers who long deep emotional ties they failed to form with their own fathers.

She also addressed exclusionary habits in the mental health profession that are stigmatizing Black males.

“Therapists don’t want to invite fathers – Black or white,” Muir said. “If he’s functional, they say he’s too busy. If he’s dysfunctional they say ‘he’s the problem don’t invite him.’”

Other professionals at the event took heed to the advice.

Aundray Adams, a contract manager with the Children’s Trust, acknowledged that many organizations can improve the way they help Black children.

“Most agencies don’t look at the mental health of the kids because no one wants to label a child,” said Adams, who wants to encourage organizations to offer low-level counseling for inner-city youth.

Adams spoke about the “Little Johnnies” who go to class or an after-school program bearing all the issues they experience at home. Some of these minority children experience hunger, abuse, domestic violence and low economic and educational attainment.

“You have to and make [organizations] comfortable going in areas that they typically don’t go. You have to get out of your comfort zone to see how Little Johnny lives because how can you say you’re culturally competent when you don’t even know?”

Those types of realizations are everything MDEAT is seeking to emphasize with this two-pronged series. The first approach with Friday’s conference was to reach out to professionals in order to equip them with ideas to improve Black males’ lives.

The second effort is to educate and involve the community to do the same, which is the significance of the event name that points to “empowering the village.”

“We don’t want other people to tell us when our children are misbehaving,” Muir said. “That needs to stop.”

MDEAT is hosting two community forums in May as part of the Empowering the Village to Serve Black Male Youth series. For more information go to www.miamidade.gov/economicadvocacytrust or call 305-375-5661 ext. 93449.