June is National Men’s Health Month. It’s a time set aside to raise awareness on the things men can do to get healthy and stay healthy.
That includes mental health.
Research shows men are less likely to seek mental health care than women — but they are more likely to have mental health disorders like depression. Men are also three times more likely to commit suicide. So, for some guys, making mental health a priority could mean life or death.
“Self-care is what makes me smile: not just outside but inside,” said Colby Boone. “So it could be coming here to Elevation Nail & Spa and telling Ms. Mariel I want a manicure or get my toes done. Taking that time to play my favorite music.”
For Boone, self-care is key to managing his mental health. The journey to taking care of that part of his body was full of years of trauma and depression that went undiagnosed.
“Age 7, sexual abuse," he said. "Age 13, molestation. Age 15, witnessed my first homicide. Age 16, attempted suicide for the first time. Age 21, praise God for the last time, attempted suicide and survived. That led to being in therapy for 8 months. Cognitive behavior therapy is the form where I actually saw that it was something more that I was dealing with. It was a disorder that was underlying these different behaviors that I had done through life.”
“Typically, men are supposed to suck it up and keep it moving,” explained Brandon Morrison.
For Morrison, college was the time he acknowledged and started dealing with depression and anxiety.
“My frat brothers have seen me at my lowest from a panic attack and I’m on the floor and they’re on their knees right beside me rocking with me until I’m done,” he said.
Both tell us it was taboo to talk about mental health where they’re from.
“It was more so, 'They’re going through something, pray for them.' And so you did, and things didn’t change the way you wanted them to,” explained Morrison.
“In being in therapy, a man has to trust the therapist. A man has to be open, be vulnerable,” explained Jaren Doby. “And that’s something that turns a lot of people away.”
Doby, a clinical social worker with amethyst consulting and treatment solutions, said men are slow to acknowledge a problem and slower to seek help.
“There are a lot of men that I’ve been able to work with that say ‘Hey, I kept it quiet because I didn’t want my boss to know.’ I see a lot of depression. And it’s for various reasons. We’re talking dissatisfaction with their job status, socioeconomic status.”
As more celebrities who have gotten help open up, like Terry Bradshaw, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Kevin Love and even Prince Harry, the stigma is fading.
“Men are definitely starting to open up more and take the opportunity to share what it is that they’re through,” Doby said.
Colby, who starts studying to be a therapist in the fall, said there are ways to open that conversation more for men.
“If we can find a way to meet people where they are in their journey, why can’t you have therapy on a basketball court? Why can’t we have a conversation while we’re playing ping pong. These activities help people to break that cycle that they’re going through on a regular basis.”
He hopes his non-profit, Journey of Mind, can be a catalyst to make that kind of therapy a reality.