Money and it’s effect on Black Men’s Mental Health

This article originally appeared in Forbes Magazine.

Money and mental health are tough topics by themselves. When discussing the relationship between the two for Black men, that conversation is nuanced at a complex intersection of beliefs, behaviors, relationships and safety – that most of us have to fight for.

The same can be said for men and women of every background, but the complexity that comes in for Black men is that we once existed as a form of currency. But, even during slavery, slaves were able to buy their freedom in some instances. In others, freed men were able to purchase captive family members to keep them safe.

Navigating feelings around self-worth and income while fighting to be valued and seen as human can change the social, mental and emotional significance of what money represents. That’s why financial trauma in the Black community is experienced not only within one’s lifetime but also through DNA and psyche across generations.

Beliefs About Money

What you believe about money has a direct impact on financial outcomes. Looking at money as a prize to be won rather than a tool to be used is the first step to reversing financial trauma. These beliefs often stem from a fear of taking risks, distrust in investments and extremes in money vigilance as well as overspending.

While the drivers of these beliefs might exist internally, their outward expression ties into the perceptions we see around status and social hierarchy that Black men often use to define their idea of manhood or what it means to be a man. What isn’t emphasized are the systemic barriers to financial success faced in the U.S. that often lead to feelings of worthlessness. There’s also no account for the side effects that the pursuit of money has when placed above things like physical and mental health, experiences or even family.

With changing cultural norms – discussions around what it means to be a provider, salary and the kind of job one has are the conversations expected when identifying a potential partner or network. These sometimes unrealistic expectations can result in feelings of inferiority and disappointment which can lead to overworking and other forms of mental and financial trauma.

Relationship With Money

Money shouldn’t be the only factor for self-worth when it comes to Black men, but rather safety. Safety over the opportunity to not only choose their own path but to create it. By building income-generating skills and learning how to turn income into passive or residual income, Black men can focus more on increasing actual self-worth while building their net worth.

Self-worth tied to money is not a new cultural phenomenon, however. Black men learn from a young age through culture, music, family and media that money equals access, freedom and power. While this messaging isn’t always positive in its delivery, it’s easy to internalize through observations of someone with money who has access and validation versus someone without.

We can begin to change this narrative that intrinsic value cannot be influenced by how much someone does or doesn’t have. This is especially important for Black men supporting the needs of immediate or extended family, also known as the Black tax.

Learn more about money and its effect on the self-worth of Black men.