STLMade Conversations: STR8 Mental

Why is it important to provide mental health care for Black men?

As a Black man, when you meet another individual, most times it’s met with this chest-in-the-air, competitive kind of vibe. But the energy when we come in here, it’s nothing but love, great energy, mutual admiration and respect.

I wish that that’s something that we could carry over and give to other guys that are not a part of this session, to really model how we should be towards each other. That’s the most impressive thing every month, I’m blown away at how these guys come in and conduct themselves in these sessions. 

What’s it like in a STR8 Mental Zoom meeting?

You know, we just open up. I let our therapists give the topics that we’re discussing and dive in a little bit on that, but this is really an open floor discussion. 

These guys come in and it’s supposed to be two hours. But then it’s somewhere around the two-and-a-half-hour mark, and I’m like “guys, you know, football is on, I got to take care of my kid, you know, we’ll continue this next month,” but they just come in with that energy, man. 

And there have been times I’ve come in as a host and I haven’t been in the best place myself, but when I leave, I’m just a brand-new person.

What kind of connections have men formed through STR8 Mental?

Men come in thinking that they are the only ones that are dealing with a particular situation until they get into this group call. And they see, “Oh man, there’s a guy in California that’s dealing with the same thing that I’m dealing with,” or “I see a guy in Virginia, they successfully made it out of the situation that I’m about to face.” Those guys have been doing a beautiful job of reaching out to one another and being an extra support outside of the initial group session.

How do you encourage men to open up?

One thing I always try to tell people is being vulnerable is never a sign of weakness — it’s actually a strength to recognize the issue, face it and seek help, so you can build yourself to be stronger and be a well that you can pour from. Cause if you’re empty, you can’t help anyone else in your household or anyone else around you. 

It’s a lot of things that I think are changing. You know, guys are becoming more comfortable talking to their friends about what’s going on, and just opening up to those around them. We’ve seen a lot of success and a lot of progress in those ways.

What kind of impact have you seen on men who have participated?

Being in these groups, I’ve seen guys come to the realization, like “I’ve been upset with my dad for 30-plus years, and I never gave him the grace that he was learning as he was going about this.” So now guys are really going back and like, “dang, I just had an a-ha moment right now that I need to call my dad and I need to talk to them about X, Y and Z. Cause I just had this realization that he was a human, that he had X, Y, Z going on.”

Just being able to heal and move forward in a productive manner is one thing that I see time and time again from these guys every month.

How do you plan to expand STR8 Mental?

So we want to build this mentorship team. So even if you’re not in a position where you’re ready to go to that level of dealing and speaking with a therapist, you can deal with and talk to a guy that looks like you, that is in your same age group or whatever it is, whatever makes you most comfortable, but at least you’re starting the dialogue and starting the practice of talking about it and sharing that information so that once you decide to take that next step, you’re good. And we know where your journey has come from and where you’re going with it.

What’s in the future for STR8 MENTAL?

So for STR8 Mental, my goal is for us to be the number one resource when it comes to Black men and therapy. I want us to be the leaders in the industry, in that lane. So, you know, I just want to continue to build this network. I want to continue to help guys, however we can, and be someone that they know they can come to, and be as open as they want to tell us whatever. So they know that we’re going to figure this out with you, that they know that we’re there. 

This story has been condensed and edited for clarity by Lauren Harms Milford.

Join the Story