Changing The Narrative Around Men’s Mental Illness
Growing up in the ’90s and early 2000s, I subscribed to the idea that focusing on my mental wellbeing was a luxury I couldn’t afford. I thought, People are going through way worse, what do I have to complain about? Historically, society hasn’t placed much focus on men’s mental health. Which is exactly why we are talking about it now.
These past years have been tough for so many. As a result, mental illness is on the rise across the world. As a Black man, it hurts to know that the suicide death rate among Black youth is growing more than in any other ethnic group. Focusing on our mental health is imperative for all of us – men, women, queer, non-binary people… As someone with bipolar II disorder, it’s a top priority to work with organisations fighting to destigmatise mental illness (I became a NAMI – National Alliance on Mental Illness – ambassador last year). This is why I am so honoured to guest-curate the next two issues on men’s mental health for Service95.
The purpose of these stories is to help facilitate conversations and, ultimately, bring about change around male mental health. Our contributors include the writer and poet Ocean Vuong, who challenges societal norms through his work with masterful introspection and grace; Salman Toor, whose work as a painter is a spellbinding narrative on the everyday lives of queer, brown men – intimate offerings delivered with a mastery and style that is all his own – and Dr Kathleen St Louis Caliento (my older sister!), who lives a life dedicated to helping others; as the CEO of Cara Collective, she and her team are committed to equipping people with the tools to rise above the effects of poverty – rooted in the reality that unemployment and mental health are intrinsically linked.
In next week’s issue, Mark Ronson, the prolific producer who has blessed us with some of the most successful songs of the last 20 years, talks exclusively to us about grappling with his panic disorder. We also spotlight Sahara Longe, a young artist with a magician’s touch, garnering great traction with her figurative paintings, who creates male characters that speak to us, exploring moods that connect us and reveal inner truths about ourselves.
There is, of course, still so much work to be done. We all have unique backgrounds, abilities, and hurdles, but at our core lies an energy connecting us in ways we have yet to fully understand. I believe sharing our stories is an important part of that process. Here are five books that opened my mind to new perspectives…
- Mama by Terry McMillan
- On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong
- The Measure Of A Man: A Spiritual Autobiography by Sidney Poitier
- Born A Crime by Trevor Noah
- Meditations by Marcus Aurelius