Men’s Mental Health Month Feature: Therapy for Black Men

June is recognized as Men’s Mental Health Month, a critical reminder to support men in addressing their mental health needs, breaking the stigma associated with seeking help, and encouraging open conversations about mental health. At Samaritans, we are committed to addressing the unique mental health challenges faced by different communities—especially those at higher risk of suicide. Unfortunately, while suicide rates have declined overall in the United States in recent decades, the rates among Black men have surged. This is especially significant for Black boys and young men: Suicide is the third leading cause of death for African American males ages 15 to 24.

How do we help the people that are hurting the most?

We need to learn from and work with other organizations who deeply understand the unique barriers communities face, the distinct ways suicidal ideation and mental illness manifest, and how suicide prevention efforts are received. Our partnership with Follow Suit, for example, a Boston-based mentoring program, provides young Black men with the tools to openly talk about mental health.

Vladimire Calixte

For Men’s Mental Health Month, we are highlighting an incredible national organization that is breaking down barriers by prioritizing Black men’s mental health. Vladimire Calixte has run her private practice as a therapist for 13 years. She knows firsthand that Black men and boys need a space where they can openly seek help and feel empowered to do so.

Barriers to Mental Health Care

Therapy is a crucial resource for everyone, offering transformative support that can be particularly beneficial for communities at higher risk of suicide. However, many barriers to accessing professional care can exist in marginalized communities. Many Black men may face financial constraints that make therapy unaffordable. Systematic racism within healthcare systems can lead to distrust and skepticism, and stigma surrounding mental health may contribute to a reluctance to seek formal therapy.

When Black men and boys heal, our community heals and so does the world.

In May of 2018, Vladimire and her husband Benjamin founded Therapy for Black Men, a nonprofit that not only connects Black men and boys with judgment-free, multiculturally-competent care, but also covers the often prohibitive costs associated with mental health services.

“When we started it (…) immediately we were flooded with men emailing and calling us about wanting help. We also had an influx of men telling us they wanted to start therapy, but lacked financial resources or did not have insurance. That’s when my husband and I started thinking about ways we could provide a few sessions for men who could not otherwise afford it.”

Making Therapy Accessible

The couple utilized their personal finances to offer four free initial therapy sessions, later expanding to ten sessions after recognizing the need for more comprehensive support.

“We’re proud that we’ve been able to provide over $110,000 worth of free therapy sessions to our men and boys. We just want to be able to keep it going.”

The mental health community has rallied behind this incredible organization, launching a GoFundMe campaign that has already raised $23,000. With a waitlist of over 4500, these funds are greatly needed.

“We’re so grateful for the GoFundMe and the people who are showing up and supporting us. We really look forward to being fully operational again.”

Healing Individuals, Transforming Communities

Vladimire is passionate about making her clients feel safe, cared for, and like they matter. This attitude can be transformational. It can be the catalyst for change and shift how the person sees the world around them.

“When Black men and boys heal, our community heals and so does the world. As cliche as it may sound, it’s true. That’s why Therapy for Black Men is here. That’s why our mission is so important. We want our men and boys to feel like a priority and not a casualty or an inconvenience.”

We are inspired by the work Therapy For Black Men is doing to meet the critical need for accessible, culturally competent mental health support for Black men.

“Suicide prevention doesn’t always look like what we historically know as an organization.” Kacy Maitland, Samaritans Chief Clinical Officer, spoke about our collaboration with Follow Suit at the American Association of Suicidology 2024 Annual Conference. “You may have a degree in this field, but people have PhDs in their communities.”

Through our partnerships, we aim to create a world where everyone can get the help they need. Together, we can break down barriers, reduce stigma, and move towards a world where mental health care is a reality for everyone, ensuring that no one has to struggle alone.