In this installment of Our Stories, Andre describes how he found healing through therapy, despite living in a society that shuns the practice. For many people, Jamaica is pictured as an island paradise – white sandy beaches, a beautiful and vivacious culture, rich and wholesome food, and attractive people. And while that image is not far from the truth, if the lens is focused on the inspirational stories of ordinary Jamaicans, you’d find a sharper, richer, and truer image of the Jamaican experience…this is Our Stories!

“Emotions have no gender.” – Anonymous 

In Jamaica, society tends to view issues pertaining to mental health with eyes wide shut. The responsibility of being a man can be draining, especially in a space that doesn’t encourage you to express your vulnerability. Vulnerability is not synonymous to weakness. There is a special kind of strength to be found in recognizing that you need help and going out to find it, regardless of what the stigma is surrounding that decision. That strength can extend outward and before you know it, you’ve inspired a generation. 

It is my pleasure to introduce to you, Andre Thompson, a twenty-eight (28) year old accounting clerk who chose to move against the tide and seek help. After a break-up two years ago, Andre decided that he needed to take a different approach to healing. Instead of burying how he felt, he embraced the process and sought out therapy. This is his story:

‘The Calm Before The Storm’, Devon House Kingston, 2018
  1. What do you think the stigma is around young men seeking therapy?

When we hear therapy, we hear “crying sessions”. Men don’t normally share their opinion and aren’t encouraged to because it’s seen as ‘girly’. That’s the stigma that’s attached with therapy and young men especially.  

2. Why did you seek therapy?

It was a breakup of a four-year relationship that happened two years ago. I needed it because I was not ‘one hundred’, holistically. I had breakdowns – mentally, emotionally. I was also drained emotionally and I was broken spiritually so I believed therapy kinda helped me put the pieces back together to be whole and be better.

3. Were you ever afraid that you would receive negative feedback, from a societal point of view, about going to therapy?

No. I wasn’t. I didn’t think of it like that. I thought of it as a way to help myself be a better person so that I could impact other people’s lives. With helping people, I have to seek help and so, my fear of that wasn’t really there at all. 

4. Have you ever received negative feedback from persons that know that you’ve been to therapy?

No. It was mostly encouraged. Persons were more happy that I did than anything. 

5. You mentioned previously that you sought therapy because of a breakup. Are the feelings that drove you to seek therapy resolved?

Yeah, I’m continuously finding that peace. I won’t say that it’s completely dissolved. What I would say is that how I felt in the initial stages is completely different from where I am now. 

6. What improvements/impact did you see in your life because you went to therapy?

The improvements I saw was that I was able to check my motives, ask questions to myself as to why I respond the way I do, why I say things, why I act, why do I get angry – it’s almost like critiquing myself on a daily. So, it helped me to have a better understanding of who I am as a person and to view life differently than I did before. 

An Ambassador for Change modeling for Hopetees, Christian Clothing Line, Portland 2019

7. When do you attend sessions?

During weekdays or when there’s an available time and matches my busy schedule. If there’s free time, I’m there. But it’s really hard seeing as I work 9-5 Monday to Friday and the session is an hour. Based on my work location, to reach the sessions by that time can be hard. So it’s just finding the time. 

8. Are you happy that you went to therapy?

Yes, I am happy I went to therapy. I would recommend it to everybody.

9. What advice would you give to young men that find it hard to ask for help i.e. go to therapy?

My advice would be to ask yourself a question as to where I am or where I am in my space, in my life, not in terms of my surroundings but how I am now as a person – will I be five years better off? Or down the line, will I be a better person knowing that I’m having issues because everybody does have some form of issues – some deeper than some. I would recommend that they find a way to express how they feel, who they are, and not what they do – which are two different things. And just find somebody that they can trust because, in all honesty, that’s the way therapy is. You’re really recommending it for someone to be professional. But therapy could be a thing where you could find someone who is a mentor and that can help you along in your journey in life – that’s really therapy. So I took it from the professional standpoint but you can confide in someone that allows you to be better. That’s my recommendation.

Taking steps towards healing at a Christian Motivational Forum, Ministry of National Security, Kingston 2019

10. A reason some young men don’t seek therapy relates to them thinking it’s ‘too expensive’. Do you think therapy is expensive or has it been expensive to you?

It depends on your budget, it depends on your pocket. Mine was affordable but there was just timing. To get the time to do it was an issue so cost wasn’t the main thing. If you are to look at cost, I would say look at your pocket and look at time. And that seeing that we’re in a pandemic, more often than not, they will go virtual. 

11. Do you have any recommendations of professionals or centres that young men may be able to go to seek therapy?

I only know of one. There’s a Christian place but there are others. The one I know and that I go to is Family Life Ministries. 

12. The place you mentioned sounds like a church. Do you have to be of the Christian faith to seek therapy sessions there?

No, you don’t have to.

Thank you Andre for sharing your story with us!

We all need a little help every now and again. It can be frightening just admitting that to yourself, much less taking the steps to get that help. It is our time to change the narrative; to create a new paradigm, encouraging our men to seek the help they need – without feeling as if it is a sign of weakness. I hope you will find strength in knowing that you are not alone in your struggle. We believe in you, always.