(Men)tal Health Awareness

Could you imagine telling your father, or me, telling my father, “I’m struggling. I have postpartum depression.” They would be like, “Suck it up buttercup!” ~ Kirk and Callahan Show (5/22/17, WEEI Boston)
These were just some of the ridiculously moronic words spewed on the May 22, 2017 Kirk and Callahan morning show on WEEI (Boston). I could probably write an entire novel on the absurd, not to mention machismo fueled ignorant behavior the Kirk and Callahan show has been known for over the years. Instead, I’ll sum it up with a quote from ESPN host Paul Finebaum when he said that Kirk and Callahan, “were toxic pieces of waste, who have never accomplished anything in their life.”
Where was I? Ahhh, yes…
Today is the last day of May 2017. The last day of Mental Health Awareness Month. So, I feel it’s only fitting that we talk about the last thing it feels like anyone wants to talk about when it comes to mental health – men.
Despite all the progress, all the work, all the awesome examples of engage men we see nowadays, it’s examples like the above mentioned radio show that prove men are still stuck in a society of Suck It Up.
According to findings from a 2015 study by the American Psychological Association, 9% of men in the United States have daily feelings of depression or anxiety. At roughly 1 in 10, the numbers don’t seem too alarming, but when you factor in the amount of men who don’t feel safe enough to talk about their feelings, that number could be far greater than we know. But it isn’t just about the numbers; it’s about how we as a society contribute to those numbers.
So, what sparked the comment above by the morning jerk-jocks from WEEI – they were discussing (and I use that term lightly) an article on Deadspin about TV personality and ESPN host Tony Reali, where he discusses his battle with postpartum anxiety, and the awareness he wants to bring on the matter.
In the article Reali bravely talks about a very scary episode he had in September 2015 when he was home alone with his infant daughter, and he had an postpartum anxiety attack brought on by several factors. For anyone (male or female) who has had an anxiety attack (or more commonly called a panic attack), you know how scary and overwhelming that can be. Postpartum anxiety, and the panic attacks that come with it, can be just as, and even more, overwhelming as typically parents are afraid to do anything with their baby for fear of what could happen.
“I’ll actually ‘buy it’ for women, and if it’s a real thing on any level for men….IT’S NOT A REAL THING FOR MEN!!!” ~ Kirk and Callahan Show (5/22/17, WEEI Boston)
Despite the professional diagnosis from the two armchair doctors WEEI employs for the morning drive, postpartum depression and anxiety, as well as other postpartum issues, ARE A REAL THING for men – this is according to “actual” doctors.
What causes postpartum depression? The truth is, no one really knows yet. Science and medical research are still miles away from even coming close to putting a pin in what causes postpartum issues in women, so you can imagine how far down the list men are when it comes to this issue.
Some research points to shifts in hormones, other research points to physical and emotional change as the culprit, but at the end of the day, being a parent is one of the hardest things anyone can do. Stress is the great equalizer, and can take a person’s state of mind and emotions to scary places they’ve never been. But, society plays a major roll in this battle as well.
All too much we, not just as parents, but as people too, are bombarded with messaging of how we should be living our lives. What we should be eating, thinking, reading, watching, etc etc. And if you don’t fall into that mold, you’re doing it all wrong. From advertising to the news we watch; everything we consume is telling us who we should be and how wrong we currently are, and that messaging is being aimed at people younger and younger.
“SUCK IT UP BUTTERCUP!!!” ~ Kirk and Callahan Show (5/22/17, WEEI Boston)
The pressure to simply just be can feel overwhelming at times. When did life get so hard? Better yet, when did we stop caring about how others were feeling?
Earlier I mentioned that it feels that men are still stuck in a box as it pertains to our emotional state within society, and that box has a big fat sticker that reads, “SUCK IT UP!!” I say this because, I’m a man, and I live this every day. Not overtly mind you. I don’t have people screaming at me to be man and stop whining, and I’m very lucky to have open-minded and loving people in my life. But, as I pointed out above, it’s in the shows I watch, the articles I read, the interactions I have with people; it’s the undertone of these interactions that still say, “Yeah, but you’re a man, stop being so emotional.” And it’s that kind of message that’s hurting our men and young boys of society…it certainly was for me.
Sadly, the message still being sent to men and boys is they need to be tough, and the only way to do that is to not show emotions. This messaging and idea is so wrong and corrosive, and only serves to to tell men, especially young men, that emotions make them weak, when in fact it’s exact opposite.
So, why is it so important we work harder at sending the right message to men about embracing their emotions…because more than ever, men are committing suicide in the U.S. at an alarming rate.
According to a 2016 report from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (afsp.org), each year, roughly 1.1 million people attempt suicide, with roughly 43,000 succeeding. Of those 43,000, 90% of them will have some sort of mental illness, 22.2% of them will be veterans, and the majority of the 43,000 will be men. I have stats for days, but these numbers have been out there, and growing forever, and yet it still gets little attention. So what will it take?
Recently the world lost an amazing voice, and an amazing person to suicide; Chris Cornell of Soundgarden and Audio Slave. People were shocked; I was shocked, to read the Chris had long been suffering from depression, and he eventually succumb to it. I felt like a piece of my childhood, my memories, my soul, had been taken when I read about his suicide – almost as deeply as I felt the same feelings just a few years ago when my comedic idol, Robin Williams, did the same.
I feels like this is the only way to get the public’s attention – to lose someone famous they admired or enjoyed, even though there are loved ones surrounding them right now who are hurting, and barely hanging on…or maybe they’re the ones hurting and barely hanging on. The attention and conversation is always short lived, as the news cycle moves onto the next salacious piece of gossip they find, but at least it’s getting talked about.
Society…I beg you…we need to do so much better. We need to keep this conversation going, and not wait until some famous person dies so we can act all surprised and say, “Oh man, I had no idea.”
Women, moms, sisters, cousins, wives…please, talk to the men in your life. Let them know you want to know what’s in their hearts and minds. You want to hear about their fears. Let them know it’s ok to cry. And men, embrace your emotions. Putting up walls and hiding your feelings doesn’t make you tough…it does the exact opposite. And most of all, seek help if you need it. There is nothing weak or sissy, or whatever outdated idiotic thing some other guy might say, about admitting you need some help, or need to talk.
And finally, I hope one day, in the not-to-distant future, we hear something more like this on the radio:
Could you imagine telling your father, or me, telling my father, “I’m struggling. I have postpartum depression.” They would be like, “I’m sorry to hear that son. I had a similar battle when I was a young father too. I’m glad you told me; what can I do to help?”


3 thoughts on “(Men)tal Health Awareness

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.