Black Men Heal Founder: I “Wanted to Build a Solution” to Ease Black Men’s Suffering
Hurt people hurt people. This expression is well known — because it is true — but Black Men Heal Founder and CEO Tasnim Sulaiman believes the statement can be flipped.
Healed people heal people, and Black Men Heal spurs that virtuous cycle. Its mission is to provide mental health treatment, education, and resources to men of color and to eliminate the barriers that contribute to health disparities faced by people of color.
With the help of Stand Together Foundation’s Catalyst Program, a selective six-month management and leadership development experience that accelerates the work of America’s highest-performing nonprofits, Tasnim and her colleagues will expand Black Men Heal across the country to help more men, families, and communities. “If you heal one man, he has the ability to heal a family. If you heal one family, they have the ability to heal a community,” Tasnim told Stand Together Foundation’s March 2022 Catalyst Summit. “And if you heal just one community at a time, that has the powerful potential to heal a world.”
With her cofounder Zakia Williams, Tasnim launched Black Men Heal in 2018 in Pennsylvania. She was tired of watching the country’s mental health crisis disproportionately impact her community. People of color are 20% more likely to experience mental health struggles and are 50% less likely to receive care. “I wanted to build a solution,” Tasnim told Stand Together Foundation’s Catalyst Summit audience.
Today, Black Men Heal offers each participant eight free therapy sessions from one of the 50 therapists of color who are part of the Black Men Heal network. The organization also operates Kings Corner, a weekly virtual group open to men anywhere in the world. Each week, Kings Corner tackles a mental wellness topic like financial security or police brutality run by an expert on the topic. The individual and group offerings both provide skills and tools to enhance men’s health, wellness, relationships, and quality of life.
Tasnim calls herself a “product of a Black man who needed healing.” Her father grew up during the 1950s and 1960s when segregation was prevalent and racism was overt and often deadly. Her father served in the military during the Vietnam War and like many young enlistees, suffered lifelong post-traumatic stress disorder. His experiences shattered his ability to emotionally connect with family and friends.
Young people of color face similar obstacles today. A generation younger than Tasnim’s father, Black Men Heal Director of Partnerships Doug Reed also suffered from the country’s legacy of racism, segregation, neglect, and police brutality. At Stand Together Foundation’s Catalyst Summit he likened his previous self to the Incredible Hulk, the comic book character whose anger erupted into rage. Doug said he was insecure, bitter, and desensitized to his wife, friends, and children.
“I was a Black man who needed therapy,” Doug told the audience.
A friend told Doug about Black Men Heal. When he called to find out how to apply for therapy, Tasnim answered. She told Doug, “We can work toward your healing.”
We. That single world convinced Doug he had found a person who cared, and an organization that could help. Black Men Heal:
Recruits and hires physicians of color to provide free, culturally-responsive individual and group therapy;
Works to reduce the stigma of mental health care by encouraging men like Doug who have accessed the organization’s services to be advocates for healing in their communities;
Offers dedicated programs to address the trauma of gun violence;
Provides diversity, equity, and inclusion management and executive coaching.
Black Men Heal has served nearly 1,600 Black men in Pennsylvania. Its virtual therapy groups reach more than 2,000 individuals worldwide. More than 75% of men who have completed the eight free therapy sessions have continued therapy.
“Instead of enduring,” these men are healing, Tasnim said, and will be able to access their tools to heal others.