TEXAS — The rate of suicide among Black men and boys is increasing, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

Suicide is the third leading cause of death in Black adolescents between the ages of 15 and 19 and African American adults are 20% more likely to experience mental health issues than the rest of the population.

Former NFL player and psychotherapist Dr. Jay Barnett is working to curb those statistics by encouraging Black men and boys to talk about their concerns and struggles, before it’s too late.

“One of the most unfortunate things about Black men, Black boys is that there wasn’t an opportunity for them to understand their ability to articulate and express what they felt,” Barnett said.

Dr. Barnett is creating that opportunity by partnering with Hope Allen and Living Hope Productions to launch “Just Heal, Bro,” a national Black male mental health tour that aims to give Black men a safe space to open up and be vulnerable about mental health struggles.

“When we started to see the numbers ticking up in depression and suicide, particularly for our Black boys ages 16-24 doubling, and even Black men four times more having suicide attempts than our Black women, we knew the urgency was now,” Allen said.

“This tour has been a testament of my own triumphs with going to therapy after surviving two suicide attempts,” Barnett added.

Now, with the example of his own mental health journey and how he tackled depression and thoughts of suicide, Dr. Barnett is pushing for health through healing and relationship through shared experience, something Hope says she and many other Black women support.

“I want to see our men healed. When they’re healed, our families are healed. When they’re healed, our society is healed,” Allen expressed.

“It is a great opportunity to have the support of our sisters as we are traversing in this journey to help Black men recover,” Barnett said.

Research shows that working with Black men in groups can be a powerful intervention, thanks to the sense of camaraderie these groups foster and the opportunity for peer support. Peer support happens when people with similar lived experiences listen, share and encourage one another. Dr. Barnett hopes the Just Heal, Bro national tour is offering support and giving Black men a male-only safe space where they can find their voice.