Removing the Stigma of Mental Health

Even though millions of Americans have mental health issues, there still seems to be a stigma around it. People don’t want to talk about it, or admit their struggles for fear that people will think they are crazy. Realistically life is tough and we all struggle with something. Most of the people I see in my office are well functioning adults that are just struggling in various areas of life. Perhaps they have stress, anxiety, depression, relationship issues or body image issues. They have jobs and go through life like the rest of us.

Men, Masculinity and Mental Health

In the last few weeks it has been refreshing to see some articles where men are coming forward to talk about their difficulties. It seems as if it is more difficult for men to admit their challenges, are they feel they are weak, or concerned that others think they are weak. Many men are taught growing up to stuff their feelings. To talk about them seem to go against the masculine code. Someone can only stuff their feelings long enough before they start to leak out in some way, shape or form. A lot of men feel comfortable expressing anger, as that seems to be a more sociably acceptable way to show emotion. Ironically, we are all human to start with, thus wired to have all the same emotions. It’s just that society encourages men to prune most of those emotions-to the detriment of men.

Kevin Love of the Cleveland Cavaliers

The articles I’d like to share are from professional athletes. I applaud their courage to open up and share their vulnerability. Whether we like it or not, we all have them. And the funny thing is, as we share them we feel less alone and less vulnerable. It encourages others to speak out about their own struggles. We all benefit.

This blog will focus on an article in a magazine called the Players Tribune. Next week I will focus on a different male athlete. Kevin Love of the Cleveland Cavaliers talks about his panic attacks. He experienced his first one just after halftime in the middle of a game-at age 29. He didn’t tell his friends or family about it. Often times there is a sense of shame. However, there is no need to suffer in silence.

Panic Attacks Explained

Most people who suffer a panic attack think it is a heart attack. They feel their heart racing and breathing rate increases. Many think they are going to die. When they go to the hospital they find out that nothing is wrong with them. What happens physiologically in a panic attack is your body is in fight or flight mode. However, you body doesn’t know that it is due to stress and anxiety. It acts as if there is a saber tooth tiger running after you. The increased heart and breathing rate gives you the energy you need to try to escape and save your life.

Fear of Talking About It

Panics attacks can occur in anyone, no matter your race, religion or socio economic status. Kevin said he feared that his teammates would think he wasn’t as reliable. He wanted to hide it from them. He found a therapist to help him deal with his anxiety and panic attacks. With the help of his therapist, he realized that he never grieved the death of his grandmother, who was very special to him. Again, he buried these emotions, as many men do. Think about it, we all suffer from grief. That is part of the human condition. It helps to talk about these things.

You Aren’t Crazy

His point for sharing his struggles was to decrease the stigma of mental health. You aren’t crazy if you have anxiety or depression. You are just having a tough time. Do you know anyone who doesn’t struggle with something? If they aren’t struggling, then they have a loved one who is. Love said that he talked with another player who had depression. By opening up about his depression, it opened the door for Love to feel comfortable talking about his anxiety.

Talking To a Therapist Is Strength, Not Weakness

Realistically, when you think of it, it takes courage to admit your struggles or to see a therapist. The definition of courage is doing something you are afraid of. Loves message is “Everyone is going through something that we can’t see.” Since it isn’t obvious, no one else knows of the struggles of others. Perhaps you look at others and think they all have it together. This is not true. We are all works in progress. The more you hold it in, the more it hurts you. My guess is that if you share your struggles with a friend, that friend will also have some struggles or something they are embarrassed about.

Next weeks blog will focus on a baseball player struggling with an eating disorder.

Opening up to someone is most likely the best thing you can do for your own mental health, or for someone elses. I work with many men in my practice. If you struggle, don’t hesitate to reach out. Give me a call at 713-304-6554 and we can come up with a game plan to get you back in the game.

Take care,

Debbie Grammas