Creating Safer Spaces For Men’s Mental Health

November 30, 2022

Regardless of where you are in the world, if you’re on Beyoncé’s internet, you would have come across posts marking November as Men’s “Something” Awareness month. From physical to emotional health, men were the focus of November if days of observance are anything to consider. 

After the Washington Post published an article regarding “men having less sex than ever and its reflection of a society where men are afraid to be vulnerable,” Trevor Noah offered his thoughts on Between The Scenes. He says in part, “People don’t realize how often men are experiencing a lack of intimacy, and the only place they can experience that intimacy is through sex.” In light of this, it’s important to note that while our societies are arguably over-sexualized, “Healthy and intimate interpersonal relationships are an important part of one’s mental health,” according to Leann Poston, M.D..

Mental health and Black people

Regardless of your social differences or personal beliefs, it’s fair to note that when all genders are mentally well, the world is better. According to the 2022 State of Mental Health in America, mental health worsened as the COVID-19 pandemic approached and has not abated since. While mental health issues don’t discriminate and affect every race in some way, Black folks have the added difficulty of navigating racism and discrimination, which are negatively impactful to their mental health. According to Brian Smedley, PhD, “The combination of physical distancing, economic anxiety, and — for people of color — the very real stress from racism since the pandemic means that we will have a lot of unmet mental health needs unless we can dramatically shore up the mental health infrastructure and address workforce shortages,” as reported by Forbes.

For many of us, this information isn’t surprising. Specific to Black men, however, what does this mean? Seeking out healthcare is no small task for Black people. In the mental healthcare space, finding culturally competent mental healthcare practitioners is even more difficult. At the same time, anyone seeking out medical solutions to their mental health issues will confirm that good mental health is just as much about improving your lifestyle as it is about medical treatment. As such, we can conclude that in addition to mental healthcare, community outreach is paramount in addressing mental health issues in Black community. 

Building communities to address mental health

In October, Nathan Leigh reported on Steff Reed’s “Get Free” initiative out of Brooklyn, New York. This month, men in South Africa came together to attend the Holding Space Project. Founded by celebrated South African filmmaker, Justice Mukheli and Recovery Coach and Facilitator, Mervin Colin Canham, Holding Space is focuses on vulnerability among men. For Justice, an art project he was developing required him to take a hard look at his masculinity unpack it. In sharing the process with his followers, Merlin saw posts and broached the subject of “starting a space where we can look at ourselves and create a space for men to heal,” Justice explains. 


The Holding Space Project is open to all individuals identifying as men. Mukheli notes the importance of not living in one’s own cis-gendered reality, saying “we want to participate in a meaningful way and that’s why [Holding Space is] all inclusive of all men.”

At the end of the day, positive mental health is a lifelong and communal journey. Addressing the challenges Black men face with their mental health requires both medical healthcare and community.


Featured image, © Justice Mukheli