Many in the African-American or Black communities are shy to embrace seeking mental therapy assistance. There’s a stigma and embarrassment associated with this issue that older generations just can’t seem to understand. I know this all too well, as I experienced pushback from my family when I decided it was a crucial step for my own mental well-being.
Well, on this season of hit NBC-TV drama “This Is Us,” Randall found himself not only struggling with his own thoughts on seeking therapy as a Black man in America and how that would ultimately play out for him and his family moving forward.
Emmy and Golden Globe winner Sterling K. Brown sat down with a roundtable of POC journalists and very candidly discussed those issues and much more.
THOUGHTS REGARDING THE STIGMA OF MENTAL ILLNESS IN THE BLACK COMMUNITY:
“Yeah. So, I have a few members in my family who are living with different mental illnesses ranging from schizophrenia to bipolar to anxiety. I know what it’s like for them to sort of navigate a world in which on the outside they seem normal…like the wounds aren’t readily visible, so people expect a certain thing from them and when those expectations aren’t met, they feel like, Oh, now, now I’m weird…Right??!! They’re not weird. They are themselves and there needs to be a degree of reach for us as a society to meet them where they are instead of expecting everyone to meet you where you are. It’s really a tough thing for me, ‘cause there are people who are close to me who will stop having productive lives because of the fear that they have associated with disappointing people’s expectations.”
“So, they become sort of shut-ins. It’s important for me to show people who are living with a mental illness. I think while Randall sort of falls outside of this purview of being socialized by the black community, there’s this idea of you take care of your own stuff, right? You deal with your own and in a way that gets it done because the world is hard. You are black in this country. Shit ain’t easy for nobody. You know what I’m saying? So it’s like, why are you trying to act like you need special help for this?”
“Yes, there are certain things we have to deal with by virtue of being Black in America that your mainstream counterparts don’t have to. But, it doesn’t mean that you have to soldier that thing by yourself. Right? Being able to communicate with someone and get it out or hold on to so much, so frequently that it builds and builds and builds to where it comes out in really negative ways. But, if you have an appropriate outlet to say, this is what’s on my mind, my heart, my soul, hopefully that pressure will sort of deescalate a little bit so that you can continue with your day.”
ON THE SUBJECT OF WAVES and IMPENDING PROJECTS FROM INDIAN MEADOWS PRODUCTIONS:
“So, this year this was an interesting experience for me. I did this movie called Waves, which I thought was really, really solid film. A24 had The Farewell, The Lighthouse, Uncut Gems and Waves. So, how do you sort of entice folks to see these more intimate things that don’t necessarily require spectacle you can see from the comfort of your own home. I don’t think middle America understands that opening box office weekend means so much in terms of the longevity of a film being out in the theater. From a more personal standpoint, Indian Meadows, my production company named after my neighborhood in St Louis, Missouri, we got one thing that’s in development at Hulu called “Washington Black”, based off of the bestseller from Esi Edugyan. With Keri (Washington), we also have a film called “Shadow Force,” which is kind of like Mr. & Mrs. Smith. It’s just that we’re Black.”
TALKNG ABOUT RANDALL’S JOURNEY ON “THIS IS US”
“So, Randall Pearson’s journey, I’ve connected to it so much because he’s dealing with anxiety as do I. I was like sobbing every episode, every time. When you grow up you see your parents as a person instead of just your parents. Right? So, you sort of hopefully give them a bit of grace as you get older, especially once you have kids.”
TALKING ABOUT THE CHALLENGE OF PUTTING YOUR KIDS AND THEIR NEEDS FIRST:
“He told me once, “I have anger management issues and you won’t take me to see somebody?” Right. It’s like he was very clear. I was like, we’ll go. So, we’ve gone to therapy and it’s been kind of amazing. I said, you know, you can go in there and talk to the therapist about whatever you want to. If you want to share with daddy, you can. if you don’t want to share with daddy, that’s fine too. But, you also have the option of like bringing daddy with you into the session or not. What I love about it is that he feels heard. There’s an adult that’s taken the time to like just pay attention to what he has to say. And I, I love that I get a chance to raise a son that has no sort of stigma attached to the idea of going to therapy. I wanted to make sure that I did not continue any sort of stigma associated with it being a negative thing to go and seek out.”
ON RECOGNIZING AND SUPPORTING THE BEAUTY OF BLACK WOMEN:
“For me, man. I love my wife…she grounds me. I do feel as if black women are the keepers of our culture in large extent. Right. I want to let everybody know young black girls, black women, that when I see them, I see something, someone that is exceptionally beautiful. I just don’t want to ever send a message to my community that I don’t think that you are beautiful, that I think that you are less than enough for me to become something better.”
HOW LIFE HAS CHANGED SINCE BECOMING AN EMMY WINNER STERLING K. BROWN:
“I would say the thing that sort of like began this process is OJ. There’s a lot of people that were like, you know, who is this brother? Being on the set, like with Courtney (B. Vance) , (Sarah) Paulson, (John) Travolta and (David) Schwimmer are all people whose work I’ve been watching for a long time. I was like, one of these things does not go with the other…lol. You can’t be a fan and in the game at the same time. So once I got in the game, I was like, I’m here to play..and then I realized I can do this. So, unquestionably the access to opportunity has changed. No one was having press conferences with Brown before…lol”
ON THE AUDITION PROCESS CHANGES:
“I’ve auditioned a few times since OJ audition, for This Is Us and for (Black) Panther. But, the way people watch for your auditions changes. There’s watching with expectancy, which makes it so much easier. I mean, because for me it’s all about variety. You’re constantly trying to fight, being placed in one particular box. So, when people see that Brown can go in a few different directions, that means something.”