Jay Barnett, marriage and family therapist, life coach, author, and speaker, sat down with the Breakfast Club in a very transparent interview where he discussed overcoming suicide, men seeking therapy, and how to properly heal.
Barnett shared how he attempted suicide twice, but did not understand what led him to that point. Eventually, he discovered that his pain was rooted in unresolved issues from his childhood. He struggled with fatherhood abandonment after his parents divorced. As a former football athlete, he noted how his coaches temporarily filled the father void, but once his career ended he slipped into a depression.
“For most black boys in sports, coaches are fathers, so when football is over, I’m looking for another father [and] I’m looking for some more validation,” he recollected. Barnett felt like his parents’ divorce was a “heartbreak,” and so foreign to him especially since they were pastors.
He started going to therapy and through that process, he was able to address the issue behind the depression, because he believes depression is a symptom of a greater issue. Barnett has also discovered that he and so many male athletes share a similar struggle.
“This is why it’s hard for guys to transition out of sports because they identify themselves through what they do, and what I had to learn was this is what I did, but it wasn’t who I was.”
Barnett believes it’s imperative to have outlets for men to talk about their challenges. “We have to create spaces for men to be honest about their truth and not be judged by it,” he asserted.
While working in the educational system, he observed that white teachers don’t put forth the effort to understand why black children sometimes misbehave, and this furthers the trauma experienced by students. “They automatically looked at the student and saw the issue, you know as, ‘he’s disturbing the class,’ but really the kid hadn’t eaten [or] the kid was homeless,” he stated.
Barnett also discussed anxiety and artists. “Anxiety is rooted in the fear of the unknown and the fear of the what if,” he told the morning show. “Many artists struggle with anxiety and other mental health issues because they’re handling the responsibility of fame without guidance. Other than money and road managers, these celebrities need ‘mental health coaches, therapists, and counselors.’”
The Finding Our Lost Kings and Queens author believes that art often emerges from a place of pain.
“They’re processing through their pen and their pen is broken. Here’s the thing that today’s artists are doing: they speak about what’s going on inside of them versus artists of the old would talk about what’s going on around them.”
For those struggling through anxiety, Barnett’s advice is to, “focus on what you can control and that you can’t control, leave it alone.”
Barnett concluded by shifting the conversation to healing.
“Healing allows you to grow. I think as you’re healing you become self-aware [and] you’re able to open the door to your self-actualization to understand the self. I think as I heal, I evolve, as I heal I grow…Healing always starts with the things we hide, so as I heal I no longer feel the need to hide, and if I am not hiding, I am now growing.”