Understanding your mental health requires spending a lot of time analyzing and sitting with your thoughts — something that goes staunchly against everything the patriarchy stands for. Both men and women suffer from this culturally embedded misogyny: talking about your “feelings” is considered women’s work and an entirely unsuitable activity for manly men.
Mental health issues affect men and women equally, but men are less likely to seek help and more likely to die by suicide. In order to break down the stigma surrounding mental health, more men are coming forward publicly to share their struggles. Normalizing these issues for both men and women is an important step in our national mental-health conversation — and these seven men are leading the way.
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson may be known, alternately, as a muscles-and-brawn tough guy and a total sweetheart. But you may not know his struggles with depression. “I reached a point where I didn’t want to do a thing or go anywhere. I was crying constantly,” Johnson told Express.
After suffering a series of tragedies, including his mother’s attempted suicide and numerous career near-failures, the action star had to rebuild his mental health from the ground up. Now, he provides a strong role model — both physically and mentally — to his legion of young male fans. “I hear you. I’ve battled that beast more than once,” Johnson wrote to a fan who admitted he was struggling with depression.
Wentworth Miller may play a tough guy on Prison Break, but in real life, he’s Active Minds’ Ambassador for Mental Health — and outspoken about his own struggles with depression and suicidal thoughts. Part of his ambassadorship involves demonstrating how to be compassionate with others experiencing mental health difficulties.
Breaking through the trappings of masculine culture can be difficult — especially when it comes to sharing your feelings — and Miller recommends starting with a simple conversation. Offering an open ear can be just what a friend needs. “That’s really the most important part of that whole process,” Miller said in an interview with The Mighty. “Beginning the conversation.”
Kendrick Lamar’s debut album, good kid m.A.A.d city, may not explicitly be about depression, but his music may still help hip-hop heads tackle their personal struggles. The rapper say he’s pulled from his own vulnerabilities to craft his lyrics — and the personal experiences show.
“Kendrick Lamar’s music paints a picture of how his characters are affected by and cope with mental health issues,” says Akeem Sule, a research associate at the University of Cambridge’s Department of Psychiatry. Lamar’s later works grow more explicit. “The world don’t need you,” he writes in his song u. “I know depression is restin’ on your heart.” Through vibrant lyrics, Lamar demonstrate both how to identify and name stress and depression — and how to overcome their effects.
The beer industry and mental health may seem diametrically opposed — after all, people struggling with depression, anxiety, and other mental health concerns often turn to alcohol to self-soothe. But Colorado brewer Brandon Capps, the owner of New Image Brewery, found the perfect antidote in the industry. Capps is collaborating with a nearby liquor store to produce a New England-style IPA called “Better Together.”
He’s paying it back: Part of the brew’s proceeds will be donated to the Jefferson Center for Mental Health, one of the organizations that helped Capp get back on his feet via stress counseling. By bringing the mental health conversation to an industry that typically avoids its effects, Capps may encourage a number of men to seek help.
“The depression got the best of me,” Tweeted Toronto Raptors player DeMar Rozan after going through a difficult time in his personal life. The simple message was a watershed moment in professional sports, where being tough and immutable might be considered required character traits. Shortly after Rozan’s stark admission, Kevin Love and Kelly Oubre, Jr., followed up with insight of their own.
“Everyone is going through something that we can’t see,” wrote Love in The Players’ Tribune. In his article, Love opened up about his panic attacks, the stressors that come with “being a man” and breaking stigmas. And Oubre broke it down with a simple statement: “We’re normal people, man,” he said in an interview with NBC Sports.
As the president and CEO of Mental Health America, Paul Gionfriddo is no stranger to leading the country’s mental health conversation. When n his adopted son’s schizophrenia led to homelessness, Gionfriddo wanted to find a way to help Americans actually get help — before their mental health concerns dramatically impacted their lives.
The result: B4Stage4. This “news and current affairs-style program,” produced in partnership with ITN Productions, sets out to change the misperceptions surrounding mental health and homelessness in America. The program also explores current research and findings in mental health disorder detection and treatment, with the goal of making mental health feel less frightening and unknown.
In 2014, Matthew Shaw worked as a BBC journalist in London — until his struggle with depression made him realize the insufficiency of standard on-the-job mental health resources. By 2016, he had been awarded the University of Michigan’s first Depression Center Fellowship for his project, “Dealing with Depression within Newsrooms.”
Upon his return to the BBC, Shaw helped institute a number of mental health initiatives, including a resources section on the company’s intranet and videos with newsroom staff designed to support and encourage their colleagues. Shaw’s goal is to “ensure that everyone knows the BBC is a safe place, where you can open up and talk about your mental health and wellbeing” — and, after conquering the BBC, to conquer the entire journalism world.
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