I pushed my own mental health issues aside for nearly twice as long. I suffered unnecessarily for a very long time. I will admit that not seeking help for so long was, in part, due to the stigma around mental health. Growing up in the era of mottos like “boys don’t cry,” and “man up,” certainly doesn’t make you want to get help.
Asking for help when you need it isn’t weak, it’s smart.
Let’s please stop any notion that mental health issues are a reflection of character. Mental disorders, like depression, are no less physical than diabetes or a broken leg. You wouldn’t expect someone with diabetes not to see a doctor, or expect someone with a broken leg to walk on it without crutches.
I am grateful that the Prince has opened up. Members of the Royal family have taken on mental health as a cause. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, along with Prince Harry are spearheading the Heads Together campaign in the UK to destigmatize mental health.
The apparent suicides of former New England Patriots football player Aaron Hernandez, and of a local TV meteorologist are fresh in my news feed as I write this. These are sobering examples of the importance of mental health.
Let’s stop celebrating suffering alone.
In his interview, one of the things Prince Harry Mentioned is that he realized that he was in a big club. One in four people will be affected by mental health issues in their lifetime. It is a big club, indeed.
With depression, in particular, there is often an urge to withdraw socially. This can make reaching out for help even more challenging. There also seems to be a cultural norm that suffering alone represents independence and strength.
I resisted getting help for decades because, in part, I felt like I should be able to “handle my stuff.” When I first started talking to a therapist, I didn’t even tell my wife. I was ashamed, but I also didn’t want to be a burden. I didn’t want my wife or children to worry about me.
In the end, this was a mistake, because social support has been crucial to my healing.
Normalizing Men seeking mental health support is a matter of survival.
The suicide rate for men in the US is four times higher than that of women. Male suicide has been called a silent epidemic as it represents one of the top ten causes of death in many age groups.
In the US, . Cultural stigma around mental health is a contributing factor. Men are much less likely to seek help, or even to disclose a mental illness to friends and family. This applies in particular to depression, and many men may utilize destructive methods to cope, like substance abuse, overwork, violence, or suicide.
Making it normal and acceptable for men to seek clinical help for mental health will save lives. It will improve the quality of lives for millions. This is one of the main reasons I choose to write for The Good Men Project.
There is a positive ripple effect with getting help. For me, seeking therapy helped me to be a better father and husband – and improved the lives of my children.
So where does that leave us non-royals? Well, let’s keep talking about our mental health. Let’s help others realize that they are in a big club. Let’s look at our social norms and destroy the ones that don’t serve us.
Above all – get help if you need it.
Photo credit: Flickr