Click here for COVID-19 updates affecting the campus community

'Brother You're on my Mind' event brings awareness to mental health among African American men

Franklin junior Matthew Williams sings at Omega Psi Phi's "Brother, You're on my Mind" event in Anspach on Friday, Nov. 16.

Several African American men from Central Michigan University came together to share their experiences with mental health at Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc.’s first "Brother You’re on my Mind" event. 

"Brother You’re on my Mind" was an initiative from both Omega Psi Phi Fraternity and the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD). NIMHD is one of the 27 institutes and centers of the National Institutes of Health, according to the NIMHD website. 

The mission of the "Brother You're on my Mind" initiative was to start conversations and raise awareness about the mental health challenges that affect African American men and their families. 

Conversations included topics like recognizing the signs and symptoms of mental illness in African American men and understanding the barriers to treating depression that are unique to African American men. 

According to the American Psychiatric Association, some the signs and symptoms of mental illness include sleep or appetite changes, mood changes, social withdrawal, feeling disconnected,   problems with memory and concentration and loss of initiative or desire to participate in any activity. 

The event, held in Anspach Hall on CMU's campus, featured a presentation and several performances about how to combat the stigma that surrounds mental health. 

These performances included things such as singing, spoken word and sharing personal experiences. 

Detroit junior Jayvon O'Dell gets emotional as he shares his personal experience with mental health issues at Omega Psi Phi's "Brother, You're on my Mind" event in Anspach on Friday, Nov. 16.

According to the event's presentation, some of barriers that usually prevent African American men from getting treated for mental illness include lack of access to care, lack of insurance, poor cultural understanding by therapists and the stigma around sharing feelings and emotion. 

Some of the ways provided to combat the stigma around mental health were to be supportive of someone who is going through mental health issues and being open to having conversations about mental health. 

The event opened with a video about toxic masculinity and how boys are taught to not show their emotions. This video was followed by a statement from the fraternity’s president, Emmanuel Glass and Flint senior Kevin Wilson. 

Glass described the event as something new and innovative on CMU’s campus. 

“This event is groundbreaking,” Glass said. “We openly discuss mental health and what it means to us along with others as they share their insights.”  

During the event, Wilson constantly stressed to the audience the importance of seeking help if they felt like they were in need. He also spoke about how he constantly heard the phrase “man up” as a response to him reaching out for help. 

Wilson said the initiative is incredibly important because it allows people to see that they’re not alone. 

“When we asked the question of how many people feel that they suffer from mental health, I can say at least 75 percent of the room raised their hand,” Wilson said. “All of these people suffer, but none of these people feel comfortable speaking out.”  

Romulus senior Timothy Young, who was the first performer of the night, shared a personal story about his father committing suicide and how it affected him. Young says that speaking at the event was very beneficial for him.

“It felt really good just to get something off my chest,” Young said. “Being able to talk about how mental health is important in my life and how it affected me and having this platform just felt really good.”

Students share their thoughts on mental health stigmas in the crowd at Omega Psi Phi's "Brother, You're on my Mind" event in Anspach on Friday, Nov. 16.

Some of the other performances from the event included personal stories from Detroit junior JayVon Odell and Southfield junior Evan Echols, a song from Franklin junior Matthew Williams, a spoken word from Academic Adviser Marceil Davis and a keynote speech from Assistant Director of Multicultural Academic Student Services Jonathan Glenn.