Man Talk: Fighting the stereotypes

Photo submitted by Calvin Sykes

The Office of Counseling Services fights the stereotype of black men and mental health through its initiative  Man Talk.  

Zarus Beard, practicum counselor,  said one of the challenges of counseling is breaking down the stereotype associated with the black community.

“Black males have a difficult time expressing their feelings, and communicating,” said Beard. “As children, we are taught to be strong, be a man, toughen up. That kind of prevents [black males] to tap into what would be or could a genuine side.”

Beard says that serious, challenging issues arise in most black males in their adulthood.

“When we become men, we have very serious issues that we have to deal with. The issues can be identity, relationship, and childhood that we should be exploring and talking about,” Beard said. “ [Black Males]  don't do it, and internally we become angry. First, we become implosive carrying that anger  around, and then something triggers it. Then we become explosive, and we become the angry black man.”

Marquis Stewart, the facilitator of Man Talk, a psycho-educational group that provides a safe space for black males to talk about healthy masculinity.  The group addresses certain issues that affect males in college.

“We talk about a lot of topics that affect males and masculinity,”  said Stewart. “We talk about healthy relationships, becoming aware of domestic violence, how to prevent sexual assault, how to have healthy relationships with women, how to do deal with anger, steps to be a better man. Overall, the topics can really range.”

The environment plays a key role in the success of Man Talk.

Dougla – Kna Stancil, co-facilitator of Man, has allowed the male students to open up because of confidentiality.

“Because we create a space for them, whatever we talk about is confidential within the space. [Males]  aren’t going to laugh at each other based upon what we are talking about,” said Stancil. “It allows men to open up with that is different from their normal experiences together within their cohort.”

Stewart has worked in the counseling services since 2011. He says another aspect of Man Talk is the relationships built in the session for male students across campus.

Man Talk takes place in Gibbs Hall on Wednesday from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m.