Some may not like to admit it, but the pandemic and the police killings of Black men in America have seriously impacted the mental health of Black men in America. Experts said these real-life events mean real-life conversations should be taking place every day in the community.
“Many of us, we don’t take care of ourselves, whether it’s physical health, mental health or spiritual health,” said NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson. “That’s really important.”
The NAACP hosted a Men’s Health Virtual Town Hall on June 10th. The event has been archived on Youtube.
“We’re in the midst of a global pandemic,” said Dr. Cameron Webb, a White House senior policy advisor for COVID-19 equity. “There’s a lot of work to do and I think we’re making so much progress, but we want to make sure that progress is seen in all communities.”
Webb said the fact remains that Black men have fallen behind as America moves forward.
“We’ve seen Black men having lower rates of vaccinations than almost any other demographic,” Webb shared. “The vaccines, because of how effective they are, how safe they are, they’ve dropped the rate of deaths by 80 percent. They’ve dropped the rate of hospitalizations by 70 percent. And that benefit only accrues to the people that get vaccinated. So who is being left behind… disproportionately that would be Black men.”
Organizers hope virtual discussions will soon become in-person conversations amongst friends and family members. They believe that is another great way to encourage Black men to get vaccinated and to seek counsel to protect their mental health. Webb and NAACP President Johnson both agree that barbershops are also natural places for Black men to engage in intellectual, educational conversations.
“The barbershop is the great equalizer. Regardless of your walk of life, when you walk into a Black barbershop everyone is equal,” Johnson added. “We have a responsibility to push facts over fear.”
Health advocates agree that factual information remains the number one key to encouraging Black men to take control of their own health.
“If you have chronic conditions that you dismiss, that aren’t managed well because you have other life struggles and life stressors to deal with… all of these factors lead to Black men being in harm’s way when it comes to COVID and the pandemic,” said Dr. Myron Rolle, a senior neurosurgery resident and global neurosurgery fellow at Massachusetts General Hospital.
Rolle added that the research behind COVID vaccines was 10 years in the making, although the actual vaccine was rolled out to the general public in about twelve months. He said it is important to begin preparing Black men for the next pandemic, by building up health now, so that when something like this happens in the future, Black men are ready to go.