Brothers Building: Offering support to those who suffer silently

Boston 25 gets real about mental health

BOSTON — Boston 25 news is launching a new initiative called “Boston 25 Gets Real,” digging into issues that are impacting members of our community, and introducing you to the people who are working to create change.

In our third report, Boston 25 News Reporter Crystal Haynes looks at a Boston group offering emotional outreach and support, for men who typically don’t get that help.

Government and private organizations studying disparities in mental health say, despite the needs, African Americans are much less frequently included in research. Masculine stereotypes and racial bias make that especially true for men of color, who are often silent in their struggles. Boston-based Brothers Building is looking to change that.

When developer Corey Thompson moved back home to Boston, he says he was looking for a way to re-connect to the community. His search led him to Brothers Building, a weekly men’s group, founded by community organizer James Mackey.

“We have one goal,” said Mackey, “To improve holistic wellness, one black man at a time.  And holistic wellness for us is making sure that we’re taking care of ourselves, mentally, physically, spiritually, social and emotionally, financially. The whole black man.”

According to the CDC, black men are 40% less likely to access mental health treatment than white men. They also have a suicide rate four times higher than black women.

“Growing up in Dorchester, going through the tough times in the late 80s, early 90s as a black man; I got pulled over several times,” explains Thompson. “And no one would really understand that other than a black man.””

Thompson says Brothers Building helped him heal after his son’s death.

“A little over ten years ago, I lost my son to dilated cardiomyopathy, an enlarged heart, on Valentine’s Day and I don’t think I truly grieved until I was in a men’s group, particularly this men’s group, cause it’s hard for a black man to really show vulnerability,” Thompson said.

“When we have our calls or when we meet in person, we find time to meditate,” said Mackey. “How often do you hear about black men having the opportunity to put pause on life? But Brothers Building  gives you coping mechanisms, gives you that opportunity  to relieve that stress. Gives you the opportunity to say if these systems continue to suppress me, I’m not going to allow it. We’re going to stand up and fight these systems.”

The American Psychiatric Association found the number of black men going to medical school is on the decline. CDC data points to systemic racism as a contributing factor to poor mental and physical health outcomes for people of color.

“The drip, drip, drip of lost opportunities because of who you are. The drip, drip, drip, effect of people looking at you in fear. The drip, drip, drip effect of not being able to be yourself,” Thompson said.

Brothers Building is now also holding forums and rallies to support racial equity legislation.

If you’re struggling with your mental health, reach out to the National Alliance on Mental Illness at https://namimass.org/.

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