“We’re shifting the paradigm, we’re Black men, but we are human first,” Archie Green said who’s the founder of Peel Back Dem Layers, a Cleveland, Ohio, nonprofit designed to help Black male youth with their mental health.
Archie, 36, says he was diagnosed with depression and uses his platform as a hip-hop artist to share stories about trauma, depression, anxiety, relationships, and fatherhood through music.
He launched his nonprofit in 2016 and launched a program called, Cope Dealers Initiative, where high school counselors and teachers identify juniors and seniors who have had behavior and anxiety challenges and could benefit from a program focused on their mental health.
Archie says the Cope Dealers Initiative program is free and funded through donors of the nonprofit. Eight students from Theodore Roosevelt High School in Kent, Ohio, are part of the initial program, and he is working to expand it into schools.
The program works when teens analyze lyrics to songs produced by Green that emphasize things like anxiety or depression, then they work on creating their own music using their own lived experiences in a recording studio. Throughout the 10-week program, a licensed social worker helps the teens work through their mental health challenges.
“Basically, help them process what they’ve heard and what they learned in this album and in the various scenes in the movie that are tied to trauma, tied to PTSD, anxiety, grief, dismantling white supremacy,” Green said of the program.
African-Americans often face barriers when accessing quality mental health treatment because of racism and limited access to culturally competent mental health professionals according to Mental Health America.
Green says he’s pleased to see more African-American men and boys are beginning to be more open to mental health in recent years.
“We’re just now starting to have this conversation become more normalized because for so long the stigma that’s across all races, generations were very prominent in the Black community; that translated eventually to us just being strong and taking in flipping pains of racism; and so now for the first time in two, three generations, we’re now finally giving ourselves permission to feel,” Green said.
The first round of teens in Green’s Cope Dealers Initiative will finish the program in March with a mixtape of their own and a concert they’ll perform for their school.
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