Is Everything Okay?

If you’re on Instagram or follow a couple of hip-hop and culture based blogs, you probably heard about Tyrese’s recent odd behaviour and most recently his public breakdown, or maybe you heard and enjoyed all the jokes about it. I can admit at the start I found it quite entertaining also, I assumed he was just trying to gain more traction to his page, maybe in the run-up to an album or an upcoming movie. However, as the odd behaviour continued to increase, and news of his ongoing custody case came to light, coupled with his public meltdown, where he was crying out hysterically, it became pretty clear to me that Tyrese was not himself, and he needed help.

The general response to Tyrese’ behaviour was that of mockery, his comments were mostly filled with laughter emoji’s, comedians and popular pages alike were ridiculing him and he was ‘memed’ and parodied relentlessly for a good two days at least. I was really disappointed to see how social media responded to this man’s obvious cry for help.  I know I probably sound quite hypocritical as I earlier admitted I found it entertaining at first too, but even after we all realised that he was not okay, people continued to mock him.  I even saw a couple posts where people took his meltdown video and somehow turned it into a song, using his cries for help to garner extra hits to their pages. His treatment by social media is a prime example as to why black men are so afraid to open up, too scared to simply ask for help.

We’ve been taught that we always need to be strong, figures of pure masculinity and that appearing weak and vulnerable is a bad thing, that it’s something to be looked down upon. The way Tyrese was treated, simply emphasised this thought process, a thought process which is incorrect and wrong in so many ways, and to be honest just unfair. In one’s moment of weakness, rather than banding together to help our brother, we mocked and made jokes about his situation. It’s all fun and games when it’s not you, but when it’s your turn and the hardships of life turn their ugly heads towards you, wouldn’t you want to be able to get help from your peers.  Research carried out by Keith Dube in his documentary ‘Being Black, Going Crazy? Informs us that “80% of POC” who have experienced both mental health illnesses and discrimination are “unable to speak about their experiences.”, according to U.K. charity Time To Change. He tells us that black men in Britain are “17 times more likely to be diagnosed with a serious mental health condition and six times more likely than a white man to be an impatient in a mental health unit”. These statistics seem so much scarier due to the fact that I don’t think I would be strong enough to seek help in that situation either.

So, my question is if we black men are suffering, then why are we so quick to mock another one of our brothers for sharing his pain? Although his methods were unorthodox and he probably shared a bit too much, shouldn’t we have taken this chance to show our support for one another. These statistics will never improve whilst we continue to hold this sentiment that seeking help is weak and that it’s not a ‘manly’ thing to do. So, why don’t we start this change? A change that lets our future generations know that it’s okay to be in pain sometimes, that everyone goes through it. The next time you see one of our brothers out there hurting, simply shoot him this question: Is Everything Okay?