This article was originally published by our friends at The Good Men Project
I do not believe there is only one way to be a “good” man. Men are not monolithic — we each have an individual value that can be a force for good, no matter how we express ourselves socially, sexually, professionally, politically, etc. But instead of pointing out how we differ, the goal of this article is to highlight a common concern we should all share.
Men are struggling. They are up to four times more likely than women to be lost to suicide, and they’re less likely to seek professional help when dealing with anxiety or depression. It’s about time we address the elephant in the room: men’s mental health.
We increasingly read about how men feel trapped or confused in their lives. They are eager to improve but hesitant regarding which path to follow. Addressing men’s mental health starts with raising awareness and invoking action. We should talk about this issue and provide men with the tools they need to develop confidence and discover happiness. Only then will more men feel like they can be the good this world needs.
As the father of three boys, the sibling of three brothers (and two amazing sisters), and the CEO of a men’s brand, I feel compelled to speak about this issue. I want to keep speaking about it not only to help others understand but also to understand it better myself. My sons should grow up knowing more than just what not to do; I want them to see great examples of exemplary behavior among men. I want my boys to see their own potential and recognize the men they can one day become.
Reaching Our Full Potential
Men should feel like they can rise to their full potential and experience fulfillment in the process. To combat the everyday challenges of mental health, here are five steps we can take to become better men.
1. Make time for close male friendships.
As I have gotten older, I’ve found that I make less time for my guy friends. I tell myself I’m too busy with work and family — which can be true. Generally, though, these are just rational excuses. To be honest, I sometimes feel guilty about hangouts. I think, “I should do this with my wife and boys.” I forget how important it is to spend time with my male friends.
This is to my own detriment. A lack of social interactions beyond home and work can cause people to feel isolated, a feeling linked to depression and anxiety. Further complicating things, almost 20% of men can’t list a single close friend. To combat this problem, we need to spend more time with other men. We need to step outside our comfort zones, reconnect with old friends, and RSVP to more events.
At my company, Rhone, we organize fitness events two or three times a month in both New York City and Los Angeles. We encourage men to be vulnerable — to open up and shed any toxic masculinity stereotypes. The results have been amazing: These events have created an atmosphere of brotherhood. Recently, an attendee approached me and said, “I can’t thank you enough for this community and these events. I met two of my closest friends by coming regularly that I would have never met otherwise.”
2. Try therapy.
Most people seek therapy when they feel like they need it, but that’s part of the problem. I mistakenly believed that therapy was reserved for extreme situations, but I now realize its true value. Therapy doesn’t mean you’re weak; it shows that you’re strong enough to realize you can’t always make it alone.
Therapy is an impactful tool, and it’s easier than ever to access thanks to technology like TalkSpace. If you’re unwilling to try therapy but still crave something therapeutic, pick up a journal. It doesn’t need to be a lengthy endeavor; I use “The Five Minute Journal” to keep myself sane, and filling it out has become a favorite part of my day.
I’ve learned how powerful therapy is through my friends and my own personal experiences. If you feel like you can talk freely about trying therapy, your openness will encourage others to do the same. A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey revealed that only 41% of men who reported experiencing depression sought treatment — let’s try to get that percentage much higher.
3. Put down the phone.
In our connected society, it’s easier to spend time by yourself or in your comfort zone than ever before. Technology and digital entertainment options are endless. We use computers at work, smartphones while commuting, and TVs at home. There are few spaces left in our lives that technology hasn’t infiltrated.
I heard Adam Silver, NBA commissioner, speak at the 2019 Time 100 Health Summit about this issue in relation to mental health and professional athletes. He said that 20 years ago, the locker room buzzed with conversations and player interactions. Today, nearly everyone has headphones on or is holding a mobile device. Players are unhappy, and isolating technology and online pressures might be responsible.
The good news? This same technology allows people to find like-minded individuals and groups with shared interests. Apps like Meetup or Friender allow users to find other people nearby who they might befriend. There is power in putting yourself out there — and putting down the phone.
4. Express yourself more openly.
Start with gratitude, which is something my team does. Gratitude is the foundation for emotional expression. Marcus Tullius Cicero is quoted as saying, “Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues but the parent of all the others.’ Outwardly expressing complex emotions like fear, sadness, or love might seem difficult right now, but anyone can start the journey of expression with a simple “Thank you.”
If you prefer written words to spoken ones, then you can craft texts, emails, or handwritten notes to the people in your life who you appreciate. As you do so, be conscious of any feelings of discomfort. Try to lean into that emotion, and you’ll find it becomes easier to express yourself sincerely over time.
We can become masters of emotional control. Learn to recognize your feelings so that you can voice them when you need to. Lead by example, and others will be more open and honest with you in return.
5. Empower and encourage great fathers.
My father has always been the best masculine role model in my own life. He was successful in the workplace, but he always prioritized being a great father. He was never afraid to show his emotions or lead by quiet example. He was the person I watched and learned from.
Research shows that the presence of a good father figure reduces a young boy’s likelihood of winding up incarcerated by up to 80%; having a close father-son relationship lessens a boy’s chances of developing depression by half. A father is certainly not a prerequisite for reaching your full potential, though. Great men and women have been raised by single mothers, extended family members, and trusted guardians.
However, we should still encourage men to spend time raising the next generation. We can benefit future generations by becoming exemplary role models for the young men in our lives. Spend time with your sons, grandsons, and nephews. Even if you can only spare a few hours, it’s the quality of the time spent that matters more than the quantity.
These five recommendations are just starting points for a discussion centering on men’s mental health. Have other suggestions? Please share them with me. I believe this problem gets better as we speak about it openly, work together to find answers and encourage each other to become better men.