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New initiative in Tallahassee to give Black men access to mental health services

Posted at 3:08 PM, Jul 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-17 17:07:34-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — According to Mental Health America, seven million Black people in the US reported a mental illness this past year. But that number is continuing to increase.

ABC 27 found out the new initiatives being done in Tallahassee to help break the stigma and get people the help they need.

Calvin Bryant said he learned this at a young age and it inspired him to be an advocate for others.

"I'm very prideful. As a man," said Bryant, owner of 40 Caliber Fitness. "I grew up in this environment where you had to suppression your feelings and you just had to handle business."

This attitude caused him to bottle up his feelings to a breaking point.

"On the outside, everybody sees one thing, but when I go back into the house, it's a totally different story," said Bryant.

Bryant was suffering from an untreated mental illness.

Dr. Fran Close with the Big Bend Mental Health Council said Bryant's story is similar to many other men in the Black community.

According to the CDC, Black men are four times more likely to commit suicide than Black women.

"Just think about all the things that men, Black men, are going through with racism, discrimination in our country and just think for a second on how that impacts the emotional man," said Dr. Close.

So where does the solution start? With the people already in their lives.

"In the Black community, as a black man, we talk to our barber's kind of like therapist," said Michael Birdsong of Big Bend Mental Health Council, Engage Committee. "That can be a perfect way to start that conversation and be like I'm not the licensed therapist but let me show you where you can get help."

The Mental Health Council of the Big Bend, the City of Tallahassee and Black Men's Health put on an event to teach local barbers, mentors, coaches, and businessmen what to do if someone they know needs help.

Training starts with QPR certification, which stands for Question, Persuade, Refer.

It's a method for people who aren't trained counselors to help someone struggling with suicidal thoughts.

Dougla-Khan Stancil / Coordinator of Substance Abuse Services Office of Council Services FAMU "ask the questions, which is a really difficult question, if the person is having thoughts of suicide and then they're really just trying to persuade that person to live and get help as well as refer them to the appropriate service provider," said Dougla-Khan Stancil, Coordinator of Substance Abuse Services Office of Council Services at FAMU.

"These folks are the most trusted front-line folks," said Dr. Kenneth Fowler, member of the Licensed Mental Health Council. "Sometimes we only get one little window to help folks. If they're able to help them in the short term and guide them to the long term. We're saving lives and helping people improve their lives."

That is something that Bryant wants to take with him as he learns the QPR training to be part of the change.

"I had to put my pride aside and start closing my mouth and opening up my ears so I can get the wisdom and help to be a better person," said Bryant.

If you need help here in the Big Bend, you can always reach out to Helpline 2-1-1. It's a hotline providing free access to information, referrals, and confidential telephone counseling services