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Six Markers for Gauging Black Boy Mental Well-Being in a Post-Racial Society

"For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you; plans to give you hope and a future."

Jeremiah 29:11

Throughout the month of May, I have been focusing on mental health from a faith perspective, particularly that of black adult and adolescent males. I have maintained that context is everything and that the negative mental health outcomes we are witnessing in some segments of our community do not take place in a vacuum.

Contextually, then: Racism is the leading cause of death for Black people in America.

Racism kills by subjugating access to wellness positive outcomes, whether mental health, prenatal care, healthcare, finances, housing and education and is sub-textually nuanced by one's inability to develop appropriate coping skills to deal with one's reality.

If Black adult males are two times as likely to attempt suicide than Black adult females, where do Black adolescent boys fall on that continuum?

According to studies dating back to the 1980's to the present, Black adolescent males are falling through the cracks, attempting suicide and succeeding with great alacrity.

The 15-24 Black male adolescent grouping is the fastest growing suicide demographic in our community.

In light of this, here are six non-psychological markers we must employ to gauge the mental well-being of our Black boys.

  1. God. Weekly church attendance has plummeted on the heels of the pandemic. Many families with Black boys in our community have yet to reconnect. Studies, though, point to a decline in weekly church attendance which predate the pandemic. The church has historically been a place to not only infuse hope, but to act as a courier of biblical discipline and character.

  2. Reading test scores

The ability to read proficiently is a major barometer for Black boy success. Black

boys who read at grade-level typically demonstrate increased confidence for

future academic achievement. Conversely, those who perform at the opposite end

of this spectrum tend to face a dismal future, including criminal activity.

3. Law enforcement interaction

According to a Johns Hopkins medicine study, "contact with police, which has

been shown to be disproportionate for Black youth even when accounting for

criminal or delinquent behavior, impacts their health and well-being." The, based

on forty years of clinical evidence, concludes that such interaction is linked to

"poor mental health, substance use, risky sexual behaviors and impaired safety."

4. Racial antagonism (external)

Racialized encounters with peer groups (or adults) from external cultures

evoke feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness and stoke feelings of anger in

Black boys.

5. Negative peer group pressure (internal)

Peer group pressure is not only in-person but extends to interaction on social

media and can often lead to feelings of not measuring up to someone else's


6. Conflict resolution

Personal coping skillsets include the ability to diffuse conflict, using effective

resilience methods for handling setbacks and the use of critical thinking skills.

Will tracking the above markers guarantee the mental well-being and successful adjustment strategies of our Black boys? No! But we may be able to gauge how they are adjusting to being a Black boy in American society. The aforementioned markers require not only observation, but conversation as well.

Our adolescent boys have as much right to their God-given, brand-new future as all of His creation.

Pastor W. Eric Croomes is a Faith Influencer and Believers Coach.

Contact and book at:

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