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Marin City therapy workshop hopes to better men's mental health

Marin Independent Journal - 2/14/2024

Feb. 14—A Marin City nonprofit is hoping to address mental health struggles in people of color through a daylong workshop.

The event, called "Thug Therapy," is focused on helping men talk about mental health. It is hosted by the Marin City Fatherhood Program, a nonprofit aimed at empowering at-risk youth.

The free session is set for 9 a.m to 2:30 p.m. Saturday at the Manzanita Recreation Center in Marin City. Other sponsors are Black Minds Matter 2, the Marin Community Foundation, CalHOPE, and Marin City Health and Wellness.

The Rev. Rondell Leggett, a pastor at the First Missionary Baptist Church where the fatherhood program operates, said men of color face daily problems that many others do not, such as racism. Other stressors include finances, careers, health and family struggles.

He said talking about what is weighing on someone's mind is a good first step in addressing it, even if in an less clinical format.

"Black men typically don't use therapy, you know we don't go to therapy," Leggett said. "We want to really break that cycle and say it's OK to break that cycle."

He said these stressors are compounded by the sentiment that many men may feel like they will be judged for expressing their feelings, or that they will be misunderstood when they do.

"We want to provide a safe place to talk about what you want to talk about and you know that we see you and hear you," Leggett said. "I don't think a lot of men feel seen, feel heard and feel acknowledged, and the alternative is to not say anything at all and keep it bottled up inside."

Leggett said "thug" is an acronym for teaching, helping, uniting and guiding. The term "Thug Therapy" and workshop was created by Stanley Cox, a successful rapper from Oakland who goes by Mistah F.A.B. Cox started the program in the East Bay after talking about his own struggles with anxiety.

"Unfortunately, especially Black and brown men, we've never had a safe space where we can feel like I can cry in front of this complete stranger and still be respected as a man," Cox said in a statement. "I can be vulnerable in these spaces. I can tell you about the things that have troubled me."

Leggett said he heard about the success Cox had in the East Bay and wanted to bring the program to Marin City. Cox, as well as local community leaders, will be giving a presentation at the workshop.

The workshop is meant to provide a safe space, build community, and connect people with resources, according Leggett. Participants will be sorted into breakout groups by age, between 14 and over 45.

Special presentations and group debriefs will be given, and breakfast and lunch will be served. There also will be breakout groups for women and girls to learn how to support men struggling with their mental health.

Zion McKinley of Marin City, a mentee in the fatherhood program, said he may not have graduated high school without a community of older people offering perspectives on things he was struggling with and guiding him on goals. He said he found a community that he considers a family.

"It helped me get my head right," McKinley said. "The older people in the community, the older people around and who I saw every day, they were in the fatherhood meeting and were helping us with goals, asking us what we want to be in life. They asked serious questions that we needed to hear at that time. That helped me a lot. I didn't have an active father figure around."

McKinley, who said leaders would like him to become a mentor to the younger generation, will attend Saturday's workshop. He said addressing mental health is beneficial, especially for younger men.

"With kids who are struggling through it, they do need support," McKinley said. "You can't go wrong with support. There is nothing wrong with asking for help."

While the program is in recognition of Black History Month, Leggett said he hopes to continue holding similar workshops to help build a supportive community for men to talk about their struggles.

"I'm trying to do all I can to make sure they can come from behind the mask and know that when they do so, there is someone there that can listen and help them relate and help them in the situation," Leggett said.

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(c)2024 The Marin Independent Journal (Novato, Calif.)

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