In celebration of World Mental Health Day, iHeartMedia New York and media host , Charlamagne Tha God hosted the Mental Wealth Expo, a free and open event last week at the Marriott Marquis in Times Square, New York City.
Sharing the panel with Charlamagne was Jay Barnett, lifestyle coach and speaker, author and speaker Jason Wilson and Ryan Mundy, NFL veteran and founder of Alcheme Health, a health company working to become the universal healthcare provider for the Black community. The topics tackled were society’s views of a real black man, what that means and how ultimately choosing what society gives you can end in detrimental results.
Kicking the conversation off Jason Wilson explained how society’s version of a real man is limited. In the black community, a lot of what we consider culture is based on masculinity. We look to our men to always be protectors, providers and power, causing attributes like being a nurturer, patient and compassionate to be pushed to the backburner. As a result when a man has a weak moment, he will usually resort to some form of self-medicating or violence because he can’t process the feelings of weakness without feeling like a failure. This in turn can lead to toxic masculinity, allowing his emotions to overcome his rational thinking and not allowing him to expression any other emotions given.
We are all responsible for ourselves and thoughts though right? And do women give men too much empathy and not hold them accountable enough? Lifestyle coach Jay Barnett thinks that if being willing is equal to being accountable in releasing the toxic energy bottled up in a lot of black men, then men will also need permission in order for the release to happen.
Why? Because most black men never were given permission to be “soft,” to cry, to feel or to express any other emotion other than strength. And one of the worse things you can do is make a person feel that their emotions are invalid.
Founder of Health Alcheme Ryan Mundy followed up with the importance of not only giving yourself permission externally but internally as well. By not looking outside of yourself, your titles or the societal standards expected and instead seeking within and doing the work to unpack what is not working will lead you in the direction of the healing you may need.
For Charlamagne Tha God, being open and honest for him was the only choice he had which also served as his cry for help. As a radio personality in one of the highest urban markets, he prides himself on authenticity which comes through daily, giving listeners a glimpse into his anxiety, depression and therapy sessions he attends every Friday afternoon.
So how important is it for men to heal?
Everything that stems from the world and the communities around us is determined by how men show up. The world revolves around men and the more healed they are to show up and be the authentic version of themselves the better off we’ll be. So much of the black culture’s struggle is rooted in trauma and the traumatized person can’t even grieve properly. Why? Because trauma and stress changes the DNA. So just by opening yourself up and doing the work, you change your genetics, therefore altering your children's DNA, allowing them to see themselves in a positive and healed light.
A Comprehensive man, defined by men of this panel, is a man who can express emotions with no shame, someone who is courageous, compassionate, strong yet sensitive and freely lives from the goodness of his heart instead of his fears. When asked what should define him as a man, Jason Wilson replied “nothing,” learning in the many martial art forms he’s succeeded in that as soon as you allow a definition to define you you become limited. Instead you can be any and everything at any given moment.
So much of who we are is based on the ideals society has given us. But we're seeing that a lot of what society has provided set up many for failure. Forget toxic masculinity for a moment, there is no way to honor yourself or be the best version if you constantly strive to only use half of what is given to you. Strength is important but learning to harness the power of love, or communication or vulnerability for example, does nothing but round you out more as a person. Only recently have we in the black community really started advocating on behalf of our mental health as a whole. By continuing in this direction, stopping the trauma and allowing yourself to heal gives you the opportunity to show up as authentically as you are.