Jai Price, 39, of St. Petersburg, is a father of four who works as an art and music curator, says he drew strength and courage from his friends to learn and cope with his mental health. Octavio Jones | WUSF Public Media
BY OCTAVIO JONES, WUSF Public Media
Editor’s note: This story is part of a local journalism collaboration about the impacts of mental health on Black Floridians and how they are facing a variety of challenges.
ST. PETERSBURG — Black Americans face a complex set of challenges as they try to maintain their mental health. On top of universal issues like depression, stigma, and economic stress, they deal with racism, health inequities, and the systemic effects of Jim Crow segregation.
That’s especially acute for Black men, who rarely talk freely about seeking mental wellness. WUSF journalist Octavio Jones spoke with two Black men living in the greater Tampa Bay region and asked them to share their lived experiences. Here is Jai Price’s story, in his own words.
It started being a concern to me when some of my close peers would come to me for, like, encouragement, or motivation or advice, for things that they would express outwardly, things that I was actually going through inwardly. It struck me because I didn’t know that a lot of my homies, a lot of my friends, a lot of my brothers were going through these things.
It’s been a few years since I’ve been trying to just navigate and figure this out and try to relate and connect more to other Black men. I noticed changes within myself. I noticed patterns between my and my dad’s life, where I felt like it was a fork in the road. And he just took a direction, falling into some, some addictions that he wasn’t able to overcome.
Not just my dad but my mom as well. Because I spent so much time around her, I know where these traumas come from…when it comes to physical and mental abuse when it comes to the bitterness and the anger that it causes — questioning myself as to where I need to be in life with choices that I’ve made. And then on the outside, too, just looking at the world as a whole and trying to see where I fit in.
It’s a wild place in there; it can be real scary. I’m a firm believer that any type of improvement, any type of building, that it’s gonna start one or two ways. He’s gonna either start from the bottom or work his way to the top, or it’s gonna start from the inside.
Looking back at it now, I’m understanding what my mama went through. She always said, “You’ll understand. When you have kids, you’re going to understand.” And it was such a loaded statement. But I think for me, knowing that, really, I’m doing the best I can with what I have.
My mama did the best she could with me. My daddy had his own situations and his own things that he was trying to battle through, where he couldn’t be the father that I’m pretty sure deep down he wanted to be.
I think fatherhood, just realizing that my kids are growing up with me, and I’m still doing my own growing in certain areas. I think they kind of see that. I feel the safest when I’m around them. I think they feel like that about me, but I feel safer around them than they do around me.
That’s one of the few times where I can let my guard down. Be me, you know, be sensitive, be corny. I remember one day, my 7-year-old said, “Everybody thinks you so cool. I think you corny.” And that made me, it made me smile. And it made me feel good because I don’t gotta put on airs for my kids.
I feel like it’s tough because of the pressure to perform, you know, and especially when it comes to us men, you know, ambition. It’s a double-edged sword because that’s the thing that drives us. But it could be a blinding light. Because I really do feel like all in all, I feel like every man, but really a Black man when it comes to the people that he loves, and the people that he wants to love him, deep down, we want to be superheroes. We really want to be superheroes.
When we feel like we fall short of that, I think we internalize it more, and we can probably damage ourselves more with the internal conflict than anybody could.
It’s just a process because we are always evolving and always changing. Just speaking for myself personally, the anxiety with the thought of the future you, or your future path or the future period. And a depression of the past you, the past experiences. Because that’s really all anxiety is: being too far in the future.
Depression is being too far in the past. And then, present circumstances, thinking I haven’t done this or done that or lack of this or lack of that. And we just get so caught up into the human “doing” aspect that we forget to “just be.”
Octavio Jones is a multimedia journalist for WUSF Public Media. This story is part of a collaboration with the Florida Courier, The Weekly Challenger, RoyalTee Magazine and WUSF Public Media. It also is a part of the national America Amplified community engagement initiative, supported by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
- If you are or know someone in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline to speak with a trained crisis counselor 24/7 at 800-273-TALK (8255), or call 988
- To connect with a trained crisis counselor and receive free 24/7 crisis support through text message, text NAMI to 741-741.
- National Domestic Violence Hotline: Call 800-799-SAFE (7233)
- National Sexual Assault Hotline: Call 800-656-HOPE (4673)
The following are resources focused on addressing mental health care for Black males:
- The Brother, You’re on My Mind toolkit from the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity provides materials to the community on depression and stress in African-American men.
- Black Men Heal is a 501c3 grassroots nonprofit organization established in 2018. It was created as a solution to a broken inequitable mental health care system that does not center the needs of marginalized Back and Brown communities.
- Therapy for Black Men is a directory of therapists and coaches across the United States providing counseling to Black men.
Black Americans face a complex set of challenges as they try to maintain their mental health. On top of universal issues like depression, stigma and economic stress, they face racism and inequities in the health care system. The Florida Courier, The Weekly Challenger, RoyalTee Magazine and WUSF Public Media created this series to highlight the stories of Black Floridians seeking emotional healing and wellness, and to provide resources for those needing support.