Filmmakers encourage black men to put their mental health first with new project

BY Michael Hill, Correspondent |

Husband and wife filmmaking duo Ralph and Zelda Patterson are hoping to inspire action through art — their latest film “The Stoic Man” encourages African Americans, especially men, to seek help for mental health-related issues.

“We’re taught that, at a very young age, that we’re just supposed to suck it up, and just keep moving, and you got it in you. And that attitude is disempowering and it’s harmful,” said Zelda Patterson, who is a long-time behavioral nurse. “The reason we’re doing this is because we want to empower people. We want them to come to seek help when they need it and not feel ashamed of it.”

The National Alliance on Mental Illness, or NAMI, says one in five adults in America has a mental illness and that costs the nation almost $200 billion a year in lost earnings.

The Pattersons say what lies beneath the stoicism exhibited by so many African American men is the need for a coping mechanism that doesn’t resort to anger, substance use or worse.

“The idea of this film is to liberate people who might feel stuck about the notion of [seeking] therapy if they’re in need,” said Ralph Patterson. “It’s a process. It’s not a light switch, but you can begin to free yourself if you understand the language and you understand the process.”

The Pattersons’ film ends with a list of connections for those looking to reach out for help.