Hello Gentlemen –

So it’s June, Men’s Health Month, and I thought it might be a good time to check in and see how you’re doing. I’ll admit I’ve been concerned; 2020 was a heck of a year (to put it mildly) and we all faced challenges we’d never faced before. I saw many of you struggle, sometimes with fear, often with wanting to protect your children from a virus that seemed to be everywhere, all while worrying about losing your job, your income, your ability to provide for your family.

Unfortunately, for many of you that’s what happened. Some of you lost more than that – a parent or wife or other loved one. Perhaps you felt there were no words to express your loss. Maybe there still aren’t. And, really, that’s what concerns me most.

As a man you’ve probably been taught that talking about pain or heartache or sadness, even after a devastating loss, makes you weak – and no man wants to be seen as weak. I know the stereotypes – it’s OK for women to be emotional, to talk about our feelings. We are nurturers. We give hugs. We cry. As for me, yes, guilty on all counts!

But you? Be strong and silent. Men don’t cry. They deal with their pain and move on. If only ignoring it made it go away. But it doesn’t – and too often pain rears its head as anger, maybe at your wife or kids; it shows up as an inability to stay focused at work. It can show up as insomnia, or the need for one more drink. And one more after that.

I found some interesting stats about men and mental health. The National Institute of Mental Health says just over 15% of adult American men were diagnosed with a mental illness in 2017. You don’t like those words, “mental illness”? That’s fine – but that’s what we’re talking about when we talk about depression, anxiety or PTSD.

You say, OK, 15% is a pretty small number, so the odds are in my favor. Perhaps. But keep in mind, those are men who sought help. Millions more didn’t, and likely for the reasons I talked about above. That was also before the pandemic.

The American Psychological Association reports 9% of men have feelings of anxiety or depression daily; the National Alliance for Mental Illness says one in four spoke to a mental health professional about it. One in four?! C’mon guys. NAMI also found 30.6% of men reported experiencing depression sometime in their lives. Men also account for 3.5 times the number of suicides as women. Yeah, not good.

The thing is, if you’re struggling, it’s not just affecting you. It affects your family, your coworkers, your friends. Fortunately, most of those people also care about you and want to see you be your best. You want to show them how courageous you really are? Tell them you’re struggling and need help. See whether they treat you with contempt – or compassion. I’ll wager on compassion. It’s the same you would do if your coworker, father, son, brother or best friend told you he was depressed, isn’t it?

And then do what may be even more courageous – find a therapist. You can call Highland Rivers Health, or ask your doctor for a recommendation, or use your employer’s employee assistance program. Or just look on the internet. And then go.

Anyway gentlemen, I hope you find this helpful. And if you’re struggling, I hope you find the help you need. I know talking about your feelings might be awkward at first, but you’ll figure it out. The best part is, you’ll start feeling better and see how therapy is helping you – and others. Because just as struggling with mental health affects those around you, getting better will too. And no one wants you get well more than the people who love you.

Wishing you all the best,

Melanie

Melanie Dallas is a licensed professional counselor and CEO of Highland Rivers Health, which provides treatment and recovery services for individuals with mental illness, substance use disorders, and intellectual and developmental disabilities in the 12-county region of Northwest Georgia.

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