Let's talk: Ways for men to challenge the norms and talk openly about mental health struggles

Posted at 1:57 PM, May 15, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-15 16:00:50-04

May is national Mental Health Month, and Denver 7 KMGH is partnering with the Let’s Talk Coloradocampaign to highlight the unique challenges men face to enjoying good mental health. Article furnished by Tom Skelley.

In Colorado, men are three times as likely as women to die from suicide, a dramatic and painful reminder that men aren’t seeking help for mental health challenges when they need to.

Reasons for this disparity aren’t all easy to explain, but one thing that can help men is discussing their struggles with a doctor or mental health professional, or even their spouses, peers, coworkers or friends. But cultural and social expectations prevent men from asking for help or even talking to close friends about their struggles.

Author and behavioral health specialist Dan Griffin calls these norms the “Man Rules.” Here’s an incomplete list:

  • Don’t cry
  • Don’t ask for help
  • Don’t show emotion
  • Don’t be vulnerable

Sound familiar guys? Now compare those to some of the “rules” for successful treatment and healthy relationships:

  • Cry/Grieve
  • Ask for help
  • Express your emotions, let them out
  • Let yourself be vulnerable

“Men have been told to be tough or ‘man up’ for so long, but it actually takes guts to be vulnerable and talk about our problems,” says Jason Vitello, MSW, behavioral health coordinator for Denver Public Health.

Vitello is an organizer of Men Up, a Denver metro coalition of public health, human services and athletic groups convened to explore challenges men face to receiving mental health care. He says it will take time and a cultural shift to reach a place where men can let down their guard and talk openly when they’re worried, scared or unhappy.
But he sees progress.

“We have a long way to go, but we’re on the right path,” Vitello says. “Campaigns like Let’s Talk and groups like Men Up are helping men understand they don’t have to go it alone, and more men in the public eye are telling their stories. It’s going to take all of us speaking out to challenge the norms we’ve been hearing for so long.”
“But sometimes,” he concluded, “rules are meant to be broken.”

If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health crisis such as relationship problems, family emergency, anxiety, depression, substance abuse, suicidal thoughts, bullying or stress, Colorado Crisis Services offers free, confidential and immediate help, with trained counselors available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Call 1-844-493-8255, text “TALK” to 38255 or click to chat online or find locations of walk-in clinics.