Chandra White-Cummings, Managing Editor
In Part 1 of this story, Ourselves|Black highlighted Jay Barnett and Dr. David Satcher, two African-American men who are significantly impacting mental health in and or the black community. Just as it is important to lift up men influencers in sports, entertainment, and the various professions, it is equally important to raise awareness of men who are helping our community deal with—really deal with—mental and emotional health in bold, unapologetic ways. Seeing Steve Harvey help young adults communicate more effectively and have more loving relationships has reinvigorated people’s desire to experience love in a way that is more fulfilling. We need the same type of influence from men in the area of mental and emotional health. Men who will show black boys and young men that it’s okay to push into their issues and work on changing their thoughts, recognizing and managing their emotions, learning how to spot trouble warning signs, and where and how to get help when needed.
Here are two more noteworthy advocates changing the landscape of mental health for black men and young people.
Former NBA Player, Member of the 2010 Los Angeles Lakers Championship Team
Mental Health Advocate
Listen to the thank-you speeches at any awards show, and you’re not going to hear winners thank their psychiatrist, therapist, or other mental health professional. Yet Ron Artest did. During an interview after the Los Angeles Lakers clinched the 2010 NBA championship, he stunned everyone by saying, “I’d like to thank my psychiatrist [she’s actually a licensed psychologist], Dr. Santhi. She really helped me relax.” Sports fans and writers might have agreed that Artest needed to relax; no one could forget the “Malice at the Palace” incident in 2004 when he returned the aggression of a fan by charging into the crowd. But openly admitting to seeing a psychiatrist, well, that’s something altogether different. Especially for a professional athlete. Especially for a black professional athlete. His admission was remarkable also because it demonstrated that mental health should be a natural part of life and is foundational to our well-being and peak performance.
As time has passed, that moment proved to not be a celebratory blip on the radar of Mr. Artest’s life. He has continued to speak about and advocate for mental health, and in ways that leave a true legacy. He talks to school-aged children, sharing the problems he faced growing up and how they affected him. They are encouraged to ask for and get help if they need it. His journey includes many details others would cover up: getting into trouble in school and his neighborhood; seeing his first therapist in high school; jail time precipitated by anger issues and uncontrolled emotions; and showing up on a late night talk show in only his boxer shorts. He leaves nothing out, all to influence young people to live honestly, face their issues, and not be ashamed of their struggles. This is star-power impact.
New York Jets, Wide Receiver
Founder, Project Borderline
Co-Founder, Project 375
Brandon Marshall is a mental health multi-tasker. His multimedia project, The Chatter, features interviews, news features, and written pieces that highlight news items from a mental health perspective. It is via this platform that Marshall interviewed fellow NFL player Arian Foster about his mental health challenges. He created Project Borderline after he was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder in 2011. Project Borderline is a nonprofit organization dedicated to raising awareness of the illness to defeat stigma, advocating for legislation to make the system work better for survivors and families, and increasing access to treatment for those seeking it. He puts it all on the line and his money where his mouth is in promoting mental health awareness. In 2013, the NFL fined him for wearing green shoes to call attention to mental health issues. He’s worn green nail polish to spark conversation. He funds groups that work and advocate in the mental health space. And he is changing lives, as any true champion does.