Ronald Dodzro, a trainee in clinical psychology from London, has spoken up about the young Black man’s reality of dealing with mental health against society’s assumptions of them.
In his article, The Hidden Life of a Top Boy, he writes: “People are quick to marginalise and criminalise young Black men, but rarely comprehend the vicious webs they are trapped within," he says.
“… Especially since various factors including the social, political and economic disadvantages faced by Black men leave them at greater risk of developing issues with their mental health,” he adds.
Mental health issues have no colour, gender, or dogma and can be experienced by anyone. According to Mind.org, 1 in 4 people experience mental health problems each year and 1 in 6 have received a mental health diagnosis.
According to the Mental Health Foundation, BAME communities are prone to develop more mental health problems. They further recognise that in the past year, Black men have become more likely to experience a psychotic disorder than White men.
This is a topic of discussion that Ronald Dodzro is trying to raise in the mental health awareness community.
Dodzro has a very clear approach to describing the term psychosis. His aim is to break it down, so it can be understood by everyone, whether they know the medical terminology or not.
“Psychosis is about how people sometimes have what others might call unusual experiences," he says. "Where people believe things that others find strange or appear out of touch with reality. I could use clinical words, but I believe to make psychology more accessible to everyone, and first it would be by simplifying those terms.”
There has been a rise in young black males suffering from psychotic episodes since the 90s and during the current pandemic because of poverty in underrepresented ethnic groups, alongside other sociological aspects impacted during these times. He explains that psychosis could be easily linked to past traumas and could hypothetically be more of a sociological issue rather than a biological illness.
“Thirty years ago, the relationship between the diagnosis of schizophrenia and poverty was seen as one of the most consistent findings in diagnosis research," Dodzro says. "Research suggests that more densely populated, more deprived and less equal communities experience higher rates of schizophrenia.
"Another explanation is medical racism, prejudice, and discrimination. Inpatient hospitals are just another prison environment which tend to contain many Black men,“ he adds.
According to The British Journal of General Practice, research shows that migrants are nearly three times more likely to be diagnosed schizophrenic, while Black migrants are nearly five times more likely to be diagnosed.
Dodzro mentions the David Harewood case about a man who went through a psychotic episode during a time of such high racial disparity in the UK, which only highlights his point about racial disparity being a cause for psychosis.
In the Black community, Black males are seen as having difficulties expressing their emotions and issues they face on a day-to-day basis.
They are raised within the 'men don’t cry' culture and constantly have to man up. Society thinks that they are hard, tough, rough and difficult to approach, which is a social construct that needs to change as Dodzro says:
“People often say that Black men are hard to reach. This is incorrect. They are just easy to ignore. The work I do is about getting people to understand this.”
Although organisations such as Mind.org have a section on young Black males’ mental health to try and open the conversation, there is still a need for change in our society.
Dodzro says: “It’s poor now, but in the bubble I am in, I am exposed to things that seem to be slowly improving. People are starting to have a conversation, whether this is at an individual level or an organisational level. I just know I will definitely be making an impact in terms of Black male mental health, and this won’t stop.”
His role in becoming a clinical psychologist isn’t simply just his choice of career, but his life calling.
He says: “Everything I do is somewhat related to my profession, simply because I am a mental health specialist. Mental health impacts everything we do. I do this all the time through writing articles, research, Twitter and other social media.”
Mental health truly is in everything that people do. If the mind is suffering, it becomes harder to think rationally when facing everyday decisions.
Dodzro ends his article with the most relevant quote from one of his patients: “I didn’t choose to be me, so why discriminate me?”.
His work indicates hope that people will see that Black men can also go through trauma, have breakdowns, and be vulnerable just like any other human can.
“I wish people would no longer be scared to speak their mind and express what they are experiencing when going through a mental health crisis,” he says.
If you or someone you know has been affected by the issues mentioned above, here are some resources and support services in the UK that can help you:
Black Men's Health UK - A website dedicated to providing resources and information about the physical and mental health of Black men in the UK. Visit their website by clicking here.
Immigration Law Practitioners Association (ILPA) - This association and registered charity has a page with a list of all the mental health resources that Black and PoC people can refer to. Visit their website by clicking here.
Mind UK - A mental health service website that provides mental health advice and support. It also has a page specifically about working with young Black men on their mental health, including projects and programmes that focus on that. Visit their website by clicking here.