I could not let Men’s Health Week — celebrated each year as the week leading up to and including Father’s Day — draw to a close without writing a post about this important observance. The idea is to explore “the different ways men and boys are managing to keep healthy, physically and emotionally, in a busy and sometimes challenging world.”
June is also Men’s Health Month, and the intent is very similar: “to heighten the awareness of preventable health problems and encourage early detection and treatment of disease among men and boys.”
Foremost among health concerns, in my estimation, is men’s mental well-being. Men are four times more likely to die by suicide than women, and suicide is the second-leading cause of death among men ages 25-34. Further, Mental Health America reports that male depression goes undiagnosed 50 to 65 percent of the time.
Since men are taught from little on to suppress our feelings, lest we appear weak, should this be surprising? Fortunately, strides are becoming made toward overcoming this long-time stigma to depression screenings and other assistance. Dr. Rich Mahogany, part Dr. Phil and part Ron “the Anchorman” Burgundy, was created to “man up” mental health and help working-age men think about their emotional problems from a different perspective.
The tools offered by Man Therapy provide employee assistance and other professionals with an innovative method to reach men who might not otherwise use mental health services. One such catch-phrase of Man Therapy reads, “You can’t fix your mental health with duct tape.”
Why am I passionate about this subject you might ask? Good question. First, I had a good friend who took his life in 2008, and so I can relate all too well about how mental health all-too-often remains overlooked in our culture. He still jogged each day and was in much better physical condition than the rest of us high school buddies. No middle age paunch for him! But his death went to show that one can appear to be fine on the outside, when that is not the case whatsoever below the surface.
Millions of men are silently struggling on the inside, and they do not have a way of talking about it. Millions of men and women are aware that something may be wrong with the men they know and care about, but they do not know how to talk with men about it. As a result, we’ve all tacitly agreed that “Doing fine. Can’t complain” is one of the few appropriate responses to the question, “How’s it going?” – Michael Addis, PhD
Second, while I fortunately did not fall to the depths my friend did, I too know what it is like to have inner demons to deal with. I have written on this blog before about being diagnosed with depression and Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) in 2002. I am convinced that this discovery – through divine intervention, and correspondingly an EAP – kept me from a nervous breakdown (or worse).
While it is very unfortunate that my friend did not end up receiving the help that I did, perhaps one of the reasons I am still here is to tell others about the importance of mental health screenings. Some still say this shows a man as being “weak.” Poppycock. I would go to the other extreme; that is, seeking help is actually a sign of strength in showing that you suspect something is wrong and you want to do something about it. And, I might add, not just for yourself, but to improve the quality of life of your loved ones as well! You might think, “That is just the way I am, there’s nothing wrong with me” but what does it hurt to get “checked out”?
But don’t just take my word for it. Many experts recognize the need for men to overcome the stigma of discussing their feelings and seeking assistance when necessary. “Men’s silence and invisibility have become so common that we treat them as normal, rather than seeing them for what they are: major social problems that can be remedied if we understand where they come from and take the right steps to change them,” writes Michael E. Addis, PhD, author of Invisible Men: Men’s Inner Lives and the Consequences of Silence.
Finally, I can also relate to psychosocial issues because I am not a typical guy in a lot of ways. I am not good with my hands, and I am lucky if I can back my car out of the garage without hitting something, let alone back and maneuver an 18-wheeler. If I was driving a big rig, I would take out tree limbs and power lines! I am also not coordinated enough to “golf” without leaving so many divots it’d make the gopher from Caddyshack look like he didn’t do a single thing to the course in that famous laugh-fest.
While it wasn’t always easy to be “different” I can poke fun at myself now because I finally came to the realization that each of us is a unique male, and this includes our physical and mental attributes.
I’ll conclude on a serious note: Just as workplaces have realized they can make an impact on reducing heart disease by encouraging exercise, they can also make an impact on reducing suicide by promoting mental health and encouraging early identification and intervention.
For more information on this topic, see: