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Brothers Workin’ it Out!

By on July 11, 2012

According to a Kaiser Family Foundation report, there are 17.3 million African American men in the U.S., representing 48% of all African Americans in the US. They tend to have some of the worse health indicators of all racial/ethnic groups, male or female. Yet, despite challenges, urban black men are able to negotiate social environments not designed to help them attain health and success, U.S. researchers say.

Michelle Teti, assistant professor of health sciences in the University of Missouri School of Health Professions, said the study explored resilience — how individuals demonstrate positive mental health regardless of stress and adversity — among poor black men living in urban areas.

The researchers interviewed the men to learn about societal stressors in their lives, including racism, incarceration, unemployment and surviving rough neighborhoods.

The study, published in Qualitative Health Research, found many of the men found ways to overcome adversity via five primary forms of resilience: perseverance, commitment to learn from hardships, reflecting and refocusing to address difficulties, creating supportive environments and obtaining support from religion and spirituality.

“Resilience is not a psychological trait that you either are born with or not; resilience can be taught and nurtured,” co-author Lisa Bowleg, an associate professor in the School of Public Health at Drexel University in Philadelphia, said in a statement. “Accordingly, our findings suggest we can use resilience strategies to teach others how to better protect themselves and their sexual partners from risk despite some harsh social-structural realities.”

The study has social welfare policy implications as urban men traditionally are disproportionately exposed to health, education, housing, and employment disparities far and above their white counterparts. Conversely, there is no comparable study for white males who generally are not exposed to the same disparities or intensity of disparities. While this speaks to a specific strength for black males it also implicates another set of stressors producing the resiliency identified.

Thanks to the researchers for there work. It’s testimony to something many in the African American community already knew, “that which does not kill us, makes us stronger.” And to every brother who gets up every day in the face of adversity, we see you!  

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