Minding My Mental Health: Screening Black Men Across The South For Mental Health Services

Changemaker Catalyst Award recipient, Benjamin Richardson, traveled to Myrtle Beach, SC for the 91st Annual Southern Regional Conference for Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc. on Mar 31st -Apr 2nd, 2022, to run a polite survey for His Health Legacy LLC., a company focused on being a gateway for Black Men’s Mental Health. Benjamin is a graduate student in The School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, Class of 2023, studying Healthcare Administration. 

In 1906, Seven distinguished Black Men formed the first African American intercollegiate Greek Letter Fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc. Those gentlemen understood the commonality and camaraderie that can be cultivated with thin a specific and unique population. This commonality and camaraderie galvanized and became a powerful legacy of brotherhood developing leaders, academic excellence, and providing service and advocacy for our community. In the spirit of service and advocacy for our community, Bro. Kyle Gordon and I began working on an access point and gateway for Black Men’s Mental Health needs in an entrepreneurial endeavor entitled His Health Legacy LLC. Before presenting the gateway to Black Men’s Mental health, we had the opportunity to test the need for such gateway at the 91st Southern Regional Conference for Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity.  

During the spring semester, I had the honor of working with the Taylor Center’s Changemaker Institute at Tulane University. The Changemaker Institute is a social venture accelerator, where I worked with 8 brilliant business leaders also creating change in their community. I began the program with the idea of changing community retail pharmacy to community focused healthcare super centers. My focus was to tailor healthcare around specific populations, and I was able to merge my passion with another. Kyle Gordon and His Health Legacy LLC was originally focused on developing a digital platform for Black Men’s Health. Joining forces was a profound moment in this entire experience. Once united we decided to develop His Health Legacy into a digital doorway for Black Men’s Mental Health. 

While collaborating within the Changemaker Institute, we realized that the endeavor was a trailblazing venture that has generational change in Black Men’s Health. Yet, we needed to prove that Black Men needed, wanted, and would use a gateway to better mental health. Being able to survey a diverse population of Black Men was absolutely essential but there was also a sense of importance to create trust amongst the men in order to be able to receive the information. People are private about their healthcare naturally and this tendency seems concentrated within the Black community. The transformational idea was to ask brothers within our fraternity, allowing the trust to be sponsored from the brotherly nature of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Incorporated.  

As a member of the Wellness and Care committee for the Southern Region of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc., I was provided with the unique opportunity to survey the brothers at the 91st Regional Conference. While the conference was in Myrtle Beach, SC, The Southern Region allotted the potential to survey brothers from Arkansas to the Carolinas and from Tennessee to Florida. The Southern Region of the United States is the most densely populated areas for Black Men and Black people in general. Surveying this subset of the population could provide clarity for need and the diversity of the men by location can express unique needs by different state and city. This opportunity would develop to be more than I could imagine.  

Bro Kyle Gordon took responsibility for the design of the survey. He was intentional about designing a survey that would not just promote a product or ask questions with assumable answers; instead, he designed the survey from the model of a mental health screener. This was revolutionary because by having brothers take the screener, we were able to collect medical screening data, which could be used to determine and connect brothers to treatments creating healthy change in Black Men’s lives. The 17-question survey was made by a google doc, allowing for easy distribution and an easy method to aggregate the data. 

On March 31st of 2022 I left fromNashville TN to Myrtle Beach, SC to attend the 91st Southern Regional Conference for Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc. I sat at the registration table, greeting the brothers, as they entered, and asking them if they would be interested in taking a brief survey. I was able to collect almost 100 responses, doubling our expectation of 50 brothers’ responses. The number of responses was amazing, but the qualification and the detail of the data was groundbreaking. Men self-recognized suffering from changes that COVID-19 created, feelings of depression and suicide, and a need for mental health services with a lack of direction for where to receive them. We did it! We were able to leverage the trust garnished by our beloved fraternity to determine that Black Men detrimentally needed a designated place to find mental health services. 

Black Men’s Mental Health is a field yearning for innovation yet cluttered with nuance. The need that those brothers made known should be considered a public service announcement. His Health Legacy LLC. Heard and is actively responding to the public service announcement. With the survey being a mental health screener, it is still live because the screener data is fluid and as brothers take it over time the data becomes richer. Trying to connect men to service provides has shown that there is an exceedingly small to non-existent network base for Black Mental Health workers and providers. Lacking awareness of the need for services lends itself to the lack of service providers and the lack of networks for them. Lack translates to opportunities for growth, in the world of entrepreneurship. Because of my experience as a Changemaker Catalyst Award recipient, I have been able to shed light on the essential needs of a large population of America. Black Men’s Mental Health is currently unheard of because it is not mentioned, but His Health Legacy will be the beacon of light to create change and innovation within the field.