Home Editorials Slap seen around the world is teachable moment about Black men, mental health

Slap seen around the world is teachable moment about Black men, mental health

by PRIDE Newsdesk

Will Smith slaps comedian Chris Rock at the Academy Awards.

Today, this topic is being discussed more openly since actor Will Smith slapped comedian Chris Rock at the Academy Awards. Just moments later, Smith received his first-ever Oscar win, a milestone overshadowed by his earlier confrontation with Rock. Viewers watched Smith experience a rollercoaster of emotions, including happiness, anger, and remorse, within the span of one award show.

Dr. Rahn Bailey, a psychiatrist with the W. Montague Cobb/NMA Health Institute and Department Head of Psychiatry at LSU’s School of Medicine, believes this moment highlights the mental health struggles many Black men are grappling within America.

“Part of the issue is that Black men are not respected and valued at the same level as some other human beings in our society,” Dr. Bailey said.    “I don’t think that would have happened if the comedian was not a Black male. Had he been a woman, I don’t think that would have happened. And perhaps had he been a White male, that may not have happened either. It could certainly be those roles are valued more.”

Depression remains one of the most common, yet under-recognized and under-treated mental illnesses among Black men, according to the National Institute of Health. Their mental health is more complex than statistics or clinical diagnoses indicate, as they are forced to balance many unspoken pressures, unrealistic expectations and unfair stereotypes.

“But violence, in any form, does more harm than good 99% of the time—other than self-defense,” Dr. Bailey said. “And we should be very cautious, initially, when we quickly run to the defense of violence.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has only made matters worse. People are facing new and challenging realities, including working from home, unemployment, virtual schooling, and lack of in-person interactions. Mental health, especially for Black men, is more important today than ever before.

“As far as COVID, I think the misinformation our society is exposed to now in the healthcare domain is frightening,” Dr. Bailey said. “We have to keep our eye on the ball.”

Worrying about COVID-19, coupled with the devastating loss of loved ones, continues to be a mental health stressor.

Whether Black men are on stage, in the board room or on the block, their emotions and state of mind need to be taken seriously. Their mental health matters.

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