Brother Be Well Wellness for Boys and Men of Color

When his mother made it clear she did not want any involvement with a gay son, Patrick packed up and moved across the country to live with one of his aunts in California. He transferred to Cordova High School, struggling to learn the high school curriculum while simultaneously learning English as a second language. 

Knowing he had no one to rely on but himself, Patrick devoted all his time and energy into studying. He maintained a 4.0 grade point average and flourished in his English studies. While Patrick worked diligently day and night, he did not achieve success all by himself. Kristine Mayr, Patrick’s English teacher and mentor, recognized his drive, and gave him the support he needed. The two slowly developed an amicable student-teacher relationship, but Patrick was still a guarded young man. Nearly two decades of hardship, abuse, and manipulation had made it hard for him to open his heart to others. 

Mrs. Mayr and Patrick’s relationship took a turn in his senior year. His past trauma, struggle with his sexual identity, and escalating tension with his aunt overwhelmed him. Patrick began to suffer nightmares and insomnia. Getting out of bed each day became an incredible effort. He lost interest in the things he had once enjoyed. When Patrick confided in Mrs. Mayr about how he was feeling, she knew instantly that her student needed help.  

Patrick’s situation worsened as her aunt kicked him out of her house after a heated argument. As an adolescent with nowhere to turn, Patrick was technically homeless. He turned to school resources for homeless students. Even with a great support system from the school, Patrick was still struggling with his mental health. He hid his feelings, hoping they would eventually pass.

“Do you have a place to stay?” Mrs. Mayr would ask him daily. 

She wanted to ensure Patrick always had a warm bed. Patrick was lucky enough to always find a friend with whom he could stay. He continued to study and work his part-time job whenever he could to earn money. But working almost full-time while going to school and maintaining a 4.0 grade point average was no easy feat. Between being under an immeasurable amount of stress and eating cheap fast food to save money, Patrick fell ill and was hospitalized. 

During Patrick’s stay in the emergency room, Mrs. Mayr stayed by his side. Frightened and feeling alone in a strange hospital room, Patrick couldn’t help but cry as his teacher held his hand through the night. From that point on, Patrick saw his teacher as the mother he never had. 

Mrs. Mayr and a few of Patrick’s friends helped him connect with mental health services. He was diagnosed with clinical depression, prescribed antidepressants, and began healing through talk therapy. Throughout his senior year, Patrick had previously volunteered with youth who struggled with mental health issues. He’d never considered that he might need the help he’d been giving to others. 

With the right care and support, Patrick began a long healing process. He graduated high school with honors and entered community college. It was there he discovered the world of scholarships. As a young man who had always had just enough to scrape by, Patrick admits he was “addicted” to winning scholarships. But life was not always fair to him. Even when he landed a full-ride scholarship for his undergraduate studies, he had to fight against an outdated financial aid system that tried to tie him to his twice-estranged mother’s finances and force him to pay out-of-state tuition. 

But if Patrick had learned one thing about himself, it was this: he would fight every step of the way to achieve his dreams. It took him six years to get his bachelor’s degree. He studied with an utmost rigor, constantly worried of getting anything less than an A. Mrs. Mayr often joked with Patrick, “You know, to be in this family, you have to get at least one B. Then we’ll have a B party, and everyone can celebrate!”

“Oh my goodness, no!” Patrick would laugh. And he meant it. 

To Patrick, his undergraduate graduation was the best day in his life. All eyes were on him as he sat on the stage among the faculty and was called for not one, but two of the four awards offered at the ceremony for highest achieving students. He had picked himself up by the bootstraps, and this time everyone noticed and applauded him for his success. 

Patrick had come a long way from when he was a small, beaten boy standing at the side of a freeway. That little boy will always be a part of him, but he has learned to take care of himself and no longer needs to wait around for a benevolent human to rescue him. Patrick launched into a career in medicine, and he also began to advocate for young people who had suffered from mental health struggles. 

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