Posted on: June 27, 2024 Posted by: Christina Bronner Comments: 19

Historically, Black men have struggled with mental health, which leaves them with the inability to take the proper steps to deal with their mental health. Nationally, we have seen a spike in the mental health crisis. However, today, more Black men than ever are making progressive moves to address their mental health. Black men have a long way to go and still need safe spaces to heal. Upscale Magazine had the opportunity to gain insight with Jason Dotson, who is committed to helping Black men become healthier by navigating the mental health space.

Tell us about the assets you provide to the community that helps the mental health crisis. 

Wellness with Jason Dotson, LLC is an agency that provides in-community counseling to  at-risk and marginalized communities, especially those of color. We aim to empower  adolescents, inform parents, and connect communities. Specifically, we provide services to at risk youth who are in crisis for reasons related to substance use, criminal engagement, anger  management, and other mental health concerns. We also focus on parent/family coaching and  mentoring for caregivers seeking to better understand their child or loved one. 

Our approach is to enhance comfort with the therapy process. First, families accept  services at their own pace. We start with introductions and a menu of options, allowing families  to guide the process. Additionally, our unique clinical services combat medical mistrust by  meeting those needing support in the comfort of their homes or other local spaces where they  feel secure. We eliminate transportation barriers and bring therapy to the patient’s safest place— no more having to miss counseling because the bus is running late, the car won’t start, or you’re  too tired after a full day of work. 

Lastly, we prioritize assisting our licensed mental health therapists by pairing them with  an assistant to create and execute client-centered treatment plans. We also provide clinical  supervision and training to graduate students to bolster the future clinician workforce. 

Why do you feel therapy is important? 

Core beliefs like “I am not crazy!” or “What happens in my house stays in my house!” prevent people from seeking mental health treatment. Logistical challenges like long working  hours, parenting responsibilities, or suspicion about “talking to a stranger” may also interfere.  But therapy is a commitment worth the time. I always tell my patients: Ego says, “Once everything falls into place, I will find peace!,” BUT Spirit says, “Once I find peace, everything  will fall into place!” We are conditioned to be task-oriented, thinking everything will improve when we win the lottery, get a job, finish school, or marry the right person. However, we find out we often still are stressed out and overwhelmed even as each milestone is achieved. Therapy  shows appreciation for the process of growth.  

People may arrive at therapy for a range of reasons. Unresolved childhood trauma continues  to impact people after they have reached adulthood, even if they’ve secured a high-paying career or recited nuptials to a romantic partner. Other stressors emerge in adulthood that may prove  insurmountable by oneself. Therapy provides an opportunity to be heard, address trauma, and develop tools to build up one’s sense of self. It can be an experience through which challenges  transform into opportunities. Talking to a friend who is not a therapist is a quick fix, like placing  a Band-Aid on a bullet wound. It is critical that you invest in your mental health with a trained,  licensed mental health counselor to ensure that you are starting a journey of wellness and  healing.  

Why do you focus on the mental health of African American boys/men? 

I feel it is my duty to provide mental health services to Black and Brown men because the  system has failed them. Too many times, I hear stories from my patients of White teachers telling  them that they will never amount to anything. (Even Malcolm X’s teacher encouraged him to be 

a carpenter, not a lawyer because he was good with his hands!) For my patients, this lack of  positive encouragement contributes to a lack of faith in themselves, leading many to follow  unhealthy paths, such as engaging in criminal activity. I try to help my patients unlearn and  replace these negative messages they have been fed by a racist and biased system. 

Research also shows us why this population is so in need of attention: Black and Brown  men are most at risk of using illicit substances to cope with stress. Despite Black men  representing less than 10% of the United States population, they are overwhelmingly represented  in the prison population. Black and Brown men are more likely to be murdered by police officers  during a routine traffic stop. Overall, Black men are leaning toward extinction. 

Innovation must be applied when offering mental health services. We at Wellness with  Jason Dotson, LLC, focus on building a rapport before offering clinical services because we  must develop trust to assist a person through the healing process. Men, especially Black and  Brown men, are not encouraged to ask for help. We’re here to invite them in. 

What kind of experience should someone expect when working with you? 

It is hard to open up to a stranger, but trusting that the stranger will not break  confidentiality or put your business on Front Street is a reoccurring concern among vulnerable  and marginalized communities. As a dual-licensed therapist, I am committed to the person in  front of me receiving health services that will help meet their wellness goals and ensuring that  they know that I am bound by ethical codes of professional counseling and will only report what  is required by me as a mandated reporter.  

I understand that many of my patients may have a history of medical mistrust, so I am  mindful not to rush a person into talking about their trauma. I always affirm to my patients that until I have earned their trust, they do not have to share anything; I remind them that this is their  story, and they are the ship’s captain. 

My patients also can expect treatment that is grounded in scientific evidence. It is critical  that a therapist understands that community trends are constantly changing and research  constantly enhancing our understanding of mental health. I attend trainings to improve my  understanding of symptom presentation and common co-occurring concerns and to become  certified in evidence-based interventions. I want my patients to feel that they have solicited the  best, making it my responsibility to stay ahead of the curve and give a community with a history  of hurt and mistrust a sense of transparency. 

Why is it difficult to get African Americans to seek support with mental health? 

“What happens in my house stays in my house!” is a message that continues to create  barriers for African-American communities in seeking mental health services or even talking about the harm they experienced as a child. I grew up in an African-American home and  community and now have more than 25 years of working with Black and Brown families. From  personal and professional experiences, I know people pretend, for example, that child abuse did 

not happen to prevent child protective services from entering their homes; asking people to pray  seemed to be the preferred option.  

Racist policies also create challenges for single-parent — often mother-led — African American households. In the past, many of our African American mothers were forced to work  two jobs while African-American fathers were counting the days to be released from prison, or  had been killed by acts of police brutality. Within this reality, it has been, and still is, hard to find  time to participate in a counseling session or believe in the benefits of counseling. 

As an African-American, dual-licensed counselor, I am tasked with creating paths for  Black and Brown communities into therapy. I have found that when Black and Brown  communities share their personal experience with mental health counseling with other Black and  Brown people, we are normalizing therapy. This happens at both the societal and individual levels. I love that hip-hop artists like Never Broke Again, Young Boy, and Lil’ Dirk are rapping  about their personal experiences with trauma and receiving help from a mental health  professional. Because of these lyrical change agents, my patients are introducing me as their  therapist to their friends — no more lying about needing a counselor’s help. Transparency is a  powerful tool and creates a path toward ensuring that African Americans find peace and  wellness.   

Tell us about the signs of depression.

Depression is real! There is a misconception among Black communities that African Americans or Black people cannot be sad or experience depression, that it is only felt by the elite or the White middle-class communities. That is FALSE. We, as Black people, can experience  depression — and we can get help, too. However, the symptoms of depression may be exhibited  differently among Black Americans. 

Mental Health America suggests seeing a doctor or mental health professional if you feel suicidal  or experience five or more of the following symptoms for longer than two weeks: 

  • A persistent sad, anxious or “empty” mood, or excessive crying 
  • Reduced appetite and weight loss or increased appetite and weight gain Persistent physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment, such as headaches,  digestive disorders and chronic pain 
  • Irritability, restlessness 
  • Decreased energy, fatigue, feeling “slowed down” 
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness, hopelessness, pessimism Sleeping too much or too little, early-morning waking 
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities, including sex 
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions 
  • Thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts 

A quick, easy and confidential way to determine if you may be experiencing depression is to take  a mental health screening, such as the Patient Health Questionnaire-9. A screening is not a 

diagnosis, but a way of understanding if your symptoms are having enough of an impact that you  should seek help from a doctor or other professional. 

What can someone do if they don’t have insurance to finance their efforts to have mental  health support? 

Unfortunately, it depends on the state. Due to racism and not fully comprehending the  Affordable Care Act, (i.e., Obamacare), many states do not accept federal funding. Residents of  states that opt out of federal funding will have a harder time accessing mental health care.   Writing to your state representative about the importance of securing funding for mental health  services is an option open to all.  

Community-based organizations, religious institutions, and hospitals may offer mental  health services. However, those services are usually capped with a set number of sessions,  leaving the therapist not enough time to scratch the surface. These places might be a good place  to get started with therapy.   

If someone is experiencing a mental health crisis, they should call 988, the national  mental health crisis hotline.  

Feel free to comment about your experience and/or thoughts on mental health.

19 People reacted on this

  1. All women do not have Daddy issues, some of you gentlemen need a mental health check!!! Fact!!!!

  2. Jason! What a great article! I see the statistics changing already. Reading through made me think of the red flags I should have seen in you back in the day, that you yourself were struggling with so many feelings. Proud of you does not even begin the way I feel about your progress and success my friend. ❤️

  3. This was well said. We need ongoing conversations on this subject in the Black and LGBTQ community.

  4. This article explains in a simplistic way as to why mental health services are imperative for men of color. You touched on medical mistrust and how some services are limited and I want to share that just yesterday my client who suffers from depression was offered a total of 6 therapy sessions out of New Bridge Medical which is the maximum he could receive. Six weeks is not enough time to truly connect with any client and yes my client is a black man. So dedicated therapist who want to think innovatively I applaud, because we need more people to expand on care outside of a clinical book that doesn’t address cultural differences.

  5. I believe the way you perceive life, and not believing everything you think can get you a long way in fighting any mental battle.

  6. I think it’s amazing how muc effort 1 could do to support any community big or small a create a positive movement for youngmen to better themselves and help them grow to their full potential everything is possible and possibilities are everywhere

  7. It is important to care for one’s mental health. The mind is a powerful influence on one’s actions and lack of treatment can lead to negative outcomes.

  8. This article is exhilarating and refreshing. Black males are one of the marginalized groups of people who need a voice. Mental health, illness and wellness amongst black males cannot be understated.

  9. Great article! Warms my heart to know change agents such as a Jason are doing the work. Jason, keep up the great work, you are the voice for marginalized communities.

  10. Great article with important highlights. No article can ever capture the heart that has driven 24/7 efforts through the past years to bring comprehensive services to a forefront! BRAVA!

  11. Great article with important highlights. No article can ever capture the heart that has driven 24/7 efforts through the past years to bring comprehensive services to a forefront! BRAVA!

  12. Jason is an amazing asset to the community he serves. His commitment to transforming mental health care and making it more accessible to under served groups is unparalleled. I am proud to know you, Jason. We need more of this in our communities!

  13. Mental health among Black men and minorities is an important matter. I love how this article clearly provides information about it and community support to help this particular marginalized population

  14. I feel it is so important to continue having these discussions regarding the lack of resources provided to some communities. The more we raise this awareness, the faster we can initiate change! Amazing article and worth the read.

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