The [email protected] pilot project was completed with 30 men at Jackson College in Jackson, Michigan.
The YBMen Project was created to better understand and address the pressures and needs of young Black men, especially issues related to their manhood and mental health. It was developed by Daphne C. Watkins, Associate Professor of Social Work at the University of Michigan. The YBMen Project is an interactive Facebook-based education and social support program. It was created for young Black men who are unlikely to discuss their mental health face-to-face; who have not been diagnosed with a mental health issue; and who desire social support in a safe and non-threatening setting.
What We Did
Dr. Watkins and her team of graduate students visited Jackson College multiple times during the 2014-2015 academic year to identify 30 Black men for the YBMen Project. After the first visit, 11 participants were placed into the YBMen Facebook group, and the remaining 19 were placed into the non-Facebook group. YBMen Facebook group members joined a private Facebook group for five weeks where we posted information and prompts from pop culture and social media (such as song lyrics, photos, and videos) that provided education on health and wellbeing. Men in the group were encouraged to comment on posts and provide support to one another.
Why We Used Two Groups
We needed to be able to compare the men in the Facebook group to men in the non-Facebook group to see if the YBMen Facebook group provided information that was helpful. To do this, we collected surveys from all 30 men before and immediately after the Facebook project, and again eight weeks later. We also interviewed the YBMen Facebook group participants to learn more about experiences and pressures in young Black men’s lives and their thoughts about the YBMen Project.
30 young Black men from Jackson College participated in the YBMen Project. At the beginning of the project:
- 53% were at risk for depression
- 59% said symptoms of depression made their lives difficult
- 17% thought about hurting themselves
All were 18-24 years old. 50% were employed, in addition to attending college. 20% were married or had a significant other.
Responses to Our Questions
Question: Do you talk about mental health with your family or friends?
“Not at all. This is the first time I’ve ever talked about it.”
Question: What does masculinity mean to you?
“Masculinity to me is like leadership, a sense of pride. Kind of like a father figure, that’s what I would consider masculinity— someone who is mature or carries that type of leadership role.”
Question: Have you ever known a Black man who had depression?
“I got a lot of friends that’s depressed because they are not in school right now, or they don’t have any money right now. They still gotta walk around the streets and do this and that. And that’s a real depression that nobody wants to go through.”
The Pilot Evaluated:
- 18-24 year old
- Depression scores before, during and after the Facebook intervention
- Depression scores decreased for Facebook group members, but NOT for the control group
- 88% of Facebook members looked at YBMen posts every week
- 63% of Facebook members actively participated each week
- 100% of participants felt Black men should be concerned about their mental health