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Your mental health is inseparable from your physical health. Not a revolutionary concept, but what is astounding is the stigmatization that still surrounds men who dare to talk about their mental struggles. As we move into Mental Health Awareness Month this May, we hope to change that.
Men who are vocal about any kind of mental issues can be dismissed as weak. As inferior. As flawed, broken guys who are more likely to be ostracized for their honesty, instead of rewarded for their bravery. Instead of affording a fellow man compassion, we mock, belittle, and turn a blind eye. We freely spit the phrase, “Man up,” as though your gender alone should suffice to guide you through your darkest times.
Or worse: we nonchalantly respond, “Well, that sucks,” then change the subject because talking about feelings is just too real.
What’s real is the fact that 9 percent of men experience depression on a daily basis. That’s more than 6 million men. Even if we understand what depression feels like, we rarely admit that’s the culprit. We lie and say we’re tired or just cranky. More than 3 million men struggle with anxiety daily. Of the 3.5 million people diagnosed as schizophrenic by the age of 30, more than 90 percent are men. An estimated 10 million men in the U.S. will suffer from an eating disorder in their lifetime. (Our own Style and Grooming Editor Louis Baragona eloquently and touchingly shared his battle with bulimia.) We retreat from friends and instead drown sorrows in numbing substances. One out of every five men will develop an alcohol dependency during his life.
Male suicide is rising at such an alarming rate that it’s been classified as a “silent epidemic.” It’s the seventh leading cause of death for males. That’s a staggering statistic. Drill down into the numbers and suicide is the second most common cause of death for every age group for men 10 through 39.
This macho attitude of stuffing your feelings down, or ignoring them, is antiquated and downright dangerous.
It’s okay to not have your shit together. It’s okay to feel depressed. It’s okay to feel overwhelmed. It’s okay to be sad. It’s okay to be anxious. It’s okay to be scared. It’s okay to not have everything figured out, to feel a wave of uncertainty come crashing over you and not know which way is up, or when your next gulp of air will come. These are perfectly normal feelings that every man experiences. And it’s okay to talk about it.
What’s not okay is suffering in silence.
A few courageous men have led the charge, exposing their plights to the rest of us. Singer Zayn Malik openly discussed his struggle with anxiety and his battle with an eating disorder. The Cleveland Cavaliers’ Kevin Love penned an op-ed entitled “Everyone Is Going Through Something,” chronicling his panic attacks.
When Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson recently revealed his battle with depression after his mother attempted suicide when he was a teenager, his words struck a chord with us:
“[It] took me a long time to realize it but the key is to not be afraid to open up. Especially us dudes have a tendency to keep it in. You’re not alone.”
You’re not. This month, we’ll be bringing you a number of fantastic pieces and features that help shine light on all the aspects of men’s mental health, curated by our incredible Deputy Editor E.J. Dickson.
We’ll cover depression and anxiety, how to recognize the symptoms of each and what to do next. We’ll dive into the world of postpartum mood disorders for men, an issue that is more common than you think, but that no one ever speaks about. We’ll explore bipolar disorder, through the lens of Andy Irons, a surfer who fought his illness by self-medicating so much that it led to his untimely passing.
We’ll examine the link between gut health and mental health. Are there foods you can eat that are genuinely good for your mental wellbeing? We’ll talk about body dysmorphia, a condition our former cover star Dan Stein faced, as well as how to deal with that one part of your body that you simply hate and wish you could change. (You’re not alone there, either. Arnold Schwarzenegger said he could look in the mirror and “wanted to throw up.”)
We’ll look at the horrible trend of our policing agencies punishing cops for asking for mental help, and how good officers have to surreptitiously seek counseling outside of their insurance, paying for therapy and medications out of pocket, lest their badge and gun be removed. And we’ll discuss the science of male anger; why and how physiological and environmental elements can contribute to making men so violent and destructive.
Together, our voices can fight the stigma that real men don’t talk about their troubles. In doing so, we can usher in a positive conversation to replace the longstanding, detrimental silence.