Growing up, I loved to watch John Wayne movies.
Wayne was the epitome of masculinity.
Strong, quiet, independent.
Those were the qualities young boys grew up to associate with being a “man’s man.”
Show strength… lead… but show no fear or real emotion.
But raising boys to believe that asking for help, or even showing emotion, is a sign of weakness has created a whole generation of men that are suffering… in silence.
The “be strong and be quiet” mentality has created an epidemic of “toxic masculinity.”
So toxic, in fact, that it’s killing us.
According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, men are more likely to die by suicide than women.
More than 6 million men experience depression every year.
When you’re depressed, you’re more likely to turn to alcohol, drugs and other unhealthy behaviors to cope.
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism estimates that nearly 3 times as many men than women die from alcohol-related causes each year.
And, men are two to three times more likely to misuse drugs than women.
And it’s not just our “be quiet and deal with it” mentality that’s resulted in male depression.
Experts believe another critical factor is loneliness.
When we’re younger, we typically have a large group of friends to hang out with.
But as we grow older, that circle becomes smaller.
Friends move away and you lose touch.
You retire and no longer see well-liked colleagues everyday… or at all.
Spouses and friends pass away.
And as a result, our circle shrinks, or becomes non-existent.
And that’s a serious problem because little or no social connections are associated with higher mortality rates.
As I’ve grown older, I’ve realized that being strong is great… but quiet, not so much, especially when it comes to my health.
If I need help, or simply someone to talk to, I’m blessed to have Karen and a solid group of friends in my corner for support.
Asking for help isn’t a weakness. It’s not something to feel any shame or guilt about.
You are no less a “man” if you’re feeling down or depressed.
You’re just human.
If you don’t have a group of friends or spouse that you can turn to, look for other ways to meet new people.
Volunteer for something you care about. Join an exercise class… or take a class to learn a new hobby.
Surround yourself with people with similar interests so that, with time, you can begin to build new bonds.
Guys, it’s time to ditch the stigma of depression and mental health.
Our lives depend on it.