I was asked recently, "why don’t men reach out for mental health resources the same as women do?"
I answered the question but later started to think about it in greater detail. I remembered a couple of incidents that clearly answered this question.
Many years ago, when my kids were young, one of their friends fell off the swing and hurt his foot. The Dad marched over to his son lying on the ground picked him up and I heard him say, “Don’t cry, be a big boy.” His son started to cry, and the Dad replied, “You are being a baby!”. Men are programmed as little boys that crying, and showing emotions is a negative thing and that it is a sign of weakness. The little boy was hurt, and he could not cry without his Dad making comments that could stay with him forever.
As a matter of fact, I remember the same thing in my childhood. Another example relates to a very good friend that has addiction and mental health issues. He once told me about an incident that was very emotional for him and he made the statement that he was ok because he did not have feelings and that he is strong. Talking to him about his mental health and addiction issues he understood that he was mentally and emotionally in trouble, but he kept saying he is going to do it on his own. He would continually say he does not need anybody telling him what he needs to do. I have known him going on two decades, and he is in the same place mentally that he was 20 years ago. Today, he has lost his house, marriage, and job because of his untreated mental health and addiction issues. I strongly believe he is a candidate for suicide, and sadly I have emotionally prepared myself for that call.
As President of a mental health organization, I have unlimited resources available to him and all he has to do is let me help him. However, his ego and sense of control have not allowed him to be willing and able to accept my help. Lord knows I have tried.
That brings me back to the question that inspired this blog, why don’t men reach out for mental health resources the same as women do?
I believe it’s because men are programmed as children that crying, feelings, or any act that shows vulnerability are signs of weakness - and real men are not weak - what an antiquated thought. The honest truth is the exact opposite - it takes a lot of courage and strength, no matter who you are, to take those first steps of accepting you need help, and reaching out.
Men that are in a good place mentally tend to be better husbands, sons, fathers, employees, and friends. It is hard to be functional in any role if you are not functional as a person first. As many of us know, suicides are high in middle-aged men and most times they have suffered in silence. It manifests and eats away at every piece of you and eventually, as with everything under pressure, it bursts.
My question to my friend is: You have been doing it on your own, in your own way for 20 years...how has that worked out for you so far?
Listen men - let us show strength and allow ourselves to be vulnerable and to get the help we need. There is no reason that we need to battle mental illness alone. Why let this build until self-harm or suicide is a viable option when there are so many other options available? I have talked with numerous men that have sought out and received help and they are so grateful that they did. So what is stopping you?
Put your ego, control, and misconceptions behind you and make the first step. Either talk to family, friends, coworkers or better yet ask a professional for help. This could be the best decision you will make in your whole life.
Men…. let us be strong, brave, and vulnerable. Reach out! This will be the best gift you ever give yourself! I guarantee it.