‘Not So Soft’ panel explores mental health among men of color

Author: Kanaga Rajan
May 11, 2023
Man sitting on ground holding his head
Photo Credit: Adobe stock

Five SF State students to discuss mental health challenges at a public panel May 12

Mental health discussions are hard and are layered by issues of culture, gender, age, economic status and more. Five San Francisco State University students — all men of color — are leading a public virtual panel called “Not So Soft” on Friday, May 12, at 6 p.m. to talk about mental health in their communities. The event is a partnership with One East Palo Alto, a community-based organization that serves youth and families from marginalized communities and provides mental health and substance use programming.

“The ‘Not So Soft’ title actually stemmed from a conversation we were having in class where we were talking about my uncle telling me all the time that our generation is soft and that we’re not the same as men were back then,” said Biology major Victor Gutierrez, who is speaking at the event. “The reason why we called this ‘Not So Soft’ is because we wanted to show that it’s OK for men to talk about their mental health and deal with those things.”

The five panelists — Gutierrez, Naeem Seif Hopkins, Antoine Evans, Jason Shin and Adriel Evaristo — are covering underage trauma, cannabis/substance use, Asian mental health, community health education on depression and mental health among youth with disabilities. Each student conducted research on different topics based on their personal experiences and interests.

Gutierrez, who is new to exploring his mental health, is part of the Latino community in the Bay Area and is going to speak about underage trauma. Hopkins, a Studio Art major, is going to tackle cannabis use among youth.

“We’re still youth ourselves and we’re figuring out manhood and debunking things from our past — and we’re all men of color. Taking into context our cultural context, as well, our view of masculinity and manhood might look different [depending on] each background that we come from,” Hopkins said. He and his classmates are still learning about their own mental health and what they need, he adds.

The five student panelists met while taking “Research with Communities,” an upper-division San Francisco State Biology course exploring the biological and social determinants of health and improving the well-being of communities. This semester’s class focused on the Community Health Needs Assessment for San Mateo County to make it more useful for community members. The students were mentored by Tania Perez, a health-equity consultant and special consultant at the University, and Professor of Biology Leticia Márquez-Magaña.

Gutierrez, Hopkins and the other three panelists were brought together by their interests in behavior and mental health. While this group is doing a public panel, other students in the class worked on community health education projects, provided public comments at board meetings and more.

Hopkins and Gutierrez credit their course instructors for giving them space in a class to explore mental health in their own communities, grow from these conversations and encourage a healing environment.

“I like to speak about [these topics] because I have gone through some things in my life,” Gutierrez explained. “I’ve never really dealt with them until this class or talked about them or seen how many people in the world actually go through the same things as us. It kind of made me feel like I wasn’t alone.”

Register to watch the free “Not So Soft” virtual panel.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Learn about mental health resources at SF State.