An Exploratory Study of Stress and Coping Among Black College Men

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Abstract

Research on coping mechanisms among Black Americans is robust, yet there is a dearth of studies that use qualitative approaches to examine coping specifically among young Black men. The current and historical landscape of race relations in the United States calls for additional concern and exploration of this topic. To fill gaps in this area, this study uncovered the ways Black college men cope with various stressors that impact their mental health. Eleven qualitative interviews were conducted with 18- to 25-year-old Black men enrolled at a college in the Midwest who participated in the Young Black Men, Masculinities, and Mental Health (YBMen) project. Data were analyzed using a rigorous and accelerated data reduction technique that involved transferring transcript data onto spreadsheets, reducing the data, and conducting a rigorous content analysis to generate themes and subthemes. Participants reported that Black college men cope with stress by discussing their issues with members of their social support networks, engaging in physical activities, and relying on themselves. Some respondents reported that they intentionally avoided dealing with their mental health, whereas others attempted to make sense of their problems. Substance use, violence, and anger were all identified as markers of unaddressed stressors. Stigma emerged as a barrier to seeking help. Study findings highlight within-group differences among Black college men. Mental health researchers must continue to develop creative ways to examine stress and coping so that resources can become more culturally relevant and readily available both within and outside of the spaces Black men occupy.

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