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"No one seemed to be hearing my cries"

A CAU Business major talks about opening up to his family about his mental health challenges.

WORDS: Jalynne Charity

PHOTO: Pexels

Jelani Luke is a senior, business major at Clark Atlanta University, who hails from Lancaster, CA. When it was Men's Mental Health Awareness Month, I decided to have a chat with Jelani. I wanted to hear from a Black man what his thoughts on mental health were. Jelani has shared with me in the past how he has had his fair share of mental health battles, so of course he was the first person I went to. 

"As a Black man, I believe it's crucial to have open discussions about mental health. We often carry a lot on our shoulders, and breaking down the stigma is the first step towards creating a healthier community," is how he started off our conversation. I wanted to dig deeper into the world of Jelani Luke so, I asked him some very personal questions and with his consent, he gave me very thought provoking answers. It's no secret that Black men are told to keep their feelings bottled up, so I asked him if he'd ever been told that when he expressed his mental health concerns with his family. "No, never. I was actually scared to open up at first because I didn't want my family to see me as crazy."

Next, he shared with me how he tried to suppress his feelings by finding other forms of escape. "I was always smoking and drinking to escape what what was going on in my mind. No one seemed to be hearing my cries for help, which only made me want to suppress these feelings even more." At this point, I couldn't help but feel for Jelani and every other Black man who had felt this way. Our conversation was an eye opener and changed my viewpoint on how Black men truly handle their emotions. 

I wanted to know more about what his family had done for him after he shared his feelings with them. Did they give him the whole "Pray about it" speech? Or, did they just shrug their shoulders and say, "That's only for white people?" He stated that his family was very supportive and would call, text, and visit him everyday. They never left his side and were always there when he needed them. His family never abandoned him and that made me think about how many Black men didn't have the luxury of experiencing this type of support system.

My conversation with Jelani provided me with a new outlook on not just my life, but the lives of Black men everywhere. It made me realize that not every Black family in America will react the same to mental health concerns. 


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