New Mental Health Initiative Reaches Out to African-American Men

NIMHD and the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc., have launched an educational outreach initiative titled Brother, You're On My Mind (BYOMM): Changing the National Dialogue Regarding Mental Health Among African-American Men. The focus is to raise awareness about the mental health challenges associated with stress and depression that affect African-American men and their families.

Omega is the first international fraternal organization to be founded on the campus of a historically black college (at Howard University) and has 750 chapters throughout the United States and internationally.

While African-American men are as likely as anyone else to have mental illness, they are less likely to get help. Depression and other mental illness can be deadly if left untreated. Suicide is a leading cause of death among African Americans ages 15 to 24. Untreated mental illness can also make African-American men more vulnerable to substance abuse, homelessness, incarceration and homicide.

"We greatly appreciate this partnership with NIMHD and are looking forward to a long-term relationship to have the impact we know is needed in our chapters and the communities we serve for years to come," said Omega's Antonio F. Knox, Sr.

Omega members have taken a pledge to help change the national dialogue in underserved communities about mental illness; to become more knowledgeable about mental health; to educate other men and their communities about mental health; and to partner with other organizations to help reduce the stigma of mental illness. Through educational awareness programs, they also disseminate evidence-based public educational materials.

As part of a recent Omega leadership conference, NIMHD hosted an information session with remarks by NIMHD chief of staff Dr. Courtney Ferrell Aklin and a keynote address by former Surgeon General David Satcher on men's mental health and the importance of the partnership between NIMHD and Omega. NIMHD also hosted a health fair with materials from NIH.

"I believe this is a wonderful collaboration that has already paid dividends in reducing the stigma attached to mental illness in the African-American community," said Omega's Dr. David Marion, who is leading the initiative.

For more information about the BYOMM Initiative, visit

People signing BYOMM agreement

On hand at the signing of the BYOMM agreement are (seated) Dr. Courtney Ferrell Aklin of NIMHD and Antonio F. Knox, Sr. of Omega Psi Phi. At rear are (from l) Dr. Triesta Fowler Lee, NICHD; Gerda Gallop-Goodman and Kelli Carrington of NIMHD; John Howard, Dr. Melvin Pinn and Dr. David Marion of Omega; and Dr. Juanita Doty, NICHD consultant.

Image Credit: James Witherspoon