Podcasts Creating a Safe Space for Black British Males
Men are in need of a safe space to be able to vocalise their emotions.
With vast technological advancement, the scope of traditional media and broadcasting has given people the autonomy to create their own content instead of relying on traditionally established institutions. One of the avenues which has become increasingly popular to broadcast shows is Podcasting. Podcasters have found freedom with the ability to produce content based on a number of diverse areas including health, fashion, sports, beauty and lifestyle; the options are limitless.
Podcasting has found itself as well as gaining popularity within mainstream media and a part of popular culture, garnering attention within Black culture as shows are increasingly being produced by people from Afro-Caribbean backgrounds. The ability to create content that in most cases is not being censored or required to conform to industry guidelines has built an avenue for Black male podcasters to be able to speak on and discuss subjects that are normal viewed as taboo; Black male mental health being one of them.
Podcasts such as Off the Cuff, 90s Baby Shows and 3 Shots of Tequila, which are hosted by Black males from Afro-Caribbean backgrounds speak to a number of important subjects, including mental health and the challenges surrounding mental health in relation to Black men. Although these podcasts do not solely limit their content to discussions on mental health, it is apparent that their popularity within Afro-Caribbean community has not only increased but has also opened up the space for people to freely discuss real life experiences, problems and emotions which we do not often hear from traditional media to the world.
The reality for some Black men, particularly those who have been brought up in very traditional households either African or Caribbean, is that their freedom of emotional expression is limited as they are often brought up in a context where they are taught to suppress their emotions and feelings in order to be “real men.” The taboo surrounding the expression of emotion further extends to the discussion of mental health.
Fred of the 90s Baby Show podcast spoke on his own upbringing and the limitations set on him due to the African culture he was brought up in. In his own words, Fred said “My African Parents don’t understand mental health… they were never taught it… and they are learning with us.” As Fred further explained, Black men from traditional African or Caribbean families that hold very strong Christian and Islamic beliefs often find themselves in an especially disadvantaged position. This is because both religions strongly rely on scripture and views about God’s protection, and often mental health is an issue that is rarely talked about—and where this is discussed it is usually associated with ‘evil spirits.’ In some cases, mental health is viewed as non-existent or a merely Western issue. This means that young boys grow into men without being exposed to information around emotional expression and mental health as these issues are never a part of their socialization at least not from their parents. As Fred rightfully questions, “How can you teach something you have never learnt?”
Due to a lack of education from home as well as the taboos that surround the issue of emotional expression within these communities, it is likely that those men that do suffer from mental health will enter the mental health services via the courts or the police, rather than from primary care, which for most people is the main route. This is according to the research conducted by the Mental Health Foundation. These men are also more likely to be treated under a section of the Mental Health Act and are more likely to receive medication, rather than be offered talking treatments such as psychotherapy, further limiting their opportunity to verbally express the trials they battle with. Overall, the Mental Health Foundation research has shown that Black men are reluctant to engage with services, hence are less likely to seek help when suffering from mental health.
These podcasters are particularly passionate about creating safe spaces to discuss taboo subjects and opening up the conversation wider in order to make mental health less of a taboo within these communities.
A 22 year old Black British male of a Nigerian heritage, who is an avid podcast listener who religiously tunes into Halfcast Podcast, spoke on how seeing and listening to “Guys that look like you and speak like you speak about their feelings and stuff in an open way… makes it less difficult to talk about mental health… making it normal.” The phenomenon of these types of podcasts continues to grow as these media personalities, though not as polished as the ones we are used to seeing, are far from the others we have previously seen; they not like the Lennie Henry or Reggie Yates.
Podcasts offer raw, fresh, ‘off the cuff’ perspectives on issues that are rarely discussed. Often times, these shows are unscripted which is international and very evident to the listener, giving an air of vulnerability and sincerity to the listener, while at the same time allowing the listener to feel the same emotion. Podcasts are fast opening an avenue for Black males to be able to normalise their freedom of emotional expression, to rid themselves of the shame that was placed on having such conversations.