• Brian Reip

The Struggle Is Real: Men and Mental Health

On the outside, I have a great life.


I married my soulmate, a brilliant, beautiful, person, and also one of the most compassionate people I’ve ever met. We’re moving into our dream home with our perfect cat. We have steady jobs. I am in leadership and make a good salary, comparatively speaking. On top of that, I have the opportunity to pursue further education, travel, and enjoy many of the luxuries life has to offer.


On the inside, I often feel broken.


I often struggle with “what if” thinking. It seems as if my every word, my every move, and my every effort are being judged. I constantly feel like no matter what I do, it is never enough. In response, I work harder and try to do even better. Unfortunately, that only exponentially escalates those feelings. I’ve wanted to stay in bed, to hide under my desk. I’ve wanted to pack up and just run away.


At times I fell into a deep, dark place. I thought about what things would be like if I was gone. This is what it’s like to have severe generalized anxiety disorder with major depression.


Guess what fellas, it’s ok to ask for help.


My Diagnosis: The Good and The Bad


I was officially diagnosed a few years ago and it was both terrifying and relieving at the same time. The mental health stigma is alive and well and that scared me. My family subscribed to the stigma and have verbally shared it with me. This made me fearful about what it would mean moving forward. Positive Update: They have been open to learning more.


However, at the same time, diagnosis brought relieved. The diagnosis provided me with explanations to what I previously thought was unexplainable. It provided me with a baseline to buckle down and get to work. It provided me with something that seemed like a constant that would require my full attention if I was going to regain control and bring balance to my life.


Losing My Friend


Then, two years after my diagnosis, the unimaginable happened. My friend and colleague died by suicide. I had just spoken to him the Friday before. He was making fun of my fantasy football team and continued to call me “Seven” in reference to falling from 1st place to 7th (last). He seemed in good spirits and; nothing seemed out of the ordinary. But I was wrong. Regretfully wrong. To this day, I wish I had engaged in our conversation for 5 more minutes.


I knew what it meant to seek help, get help, and continually engage in the tools needed to survive my illness. My friend wasn’t able to make that connection. At that point, I had a mission. And that mission was to honor him by opening up about my own mental health challenges. To me this meant engaging the community developing and leading trainings about mental health. I would do everything in my power to share the resources and tools available that we can utilize on a daily basis for ourselves to rediscover the balance so many of us lose.


Guess what fellas, it's ok to ask for help.


Men’s Mental Health: Walking the Walk and Talking the Talk


Men, we can lead by example. If something is off, ask for help. See if your job has an Employee Assistance Program. Call your health insurance company. Explore resources like Psychology Today that have tools to help you find a licensed therapist in your area.


For me personally, deciding to seek therapy has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I will talk to anyone, at any time about the process of getting there, the benefits, and why I continue to go every week. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy focuses on mindfulness strategies with the goal of rewiring your thinking to focus on the here and now, being in the moment, versus being future oriented. Each week we reinforce previous strategies, discuss new ones that can help with what I am currently experiencing, and plan out ways to actively engage in these strategies not only when needed, but when they many not be needed.


We need to talk about men and mental health.


The reality is that men face anxiety. Men face depression. Men face a number of other mental health challenges that are extremely difficult to manage without appropriate help. YOU are not alone. There are plenty of us right there with you. I am right there with you.


Guess what fellas, it's ok to ask for help.

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