You’ve heard the clichés before. Hell, you may even have used them yourself: “Man up!,” “Grow a pair!,” Real men don’t cry,” “Don’t be a p***y!” These are the messages that many boys grow up hearing at school, on the playground, or even at home, teaching them what it means to be a man. When we are young, these ideas color the way we view ourselves and each other. As we grow older, we still encounter, and sometimes find ourselves perpetuating, the same toxic playground mentality, unaware of how this way of thinking affects our lives.
Consider these statistics:
More than 4 times as many men as women die by suicide.
Substance abuse problems in men occur at a rate of 3 to 1 compared to women.
30% of men have experienced a period of depression in their lifetime.
9% of men report having daily feelings of depression or anxiety.
The research is clear that men experience mental health issues but are much less likely than women to seek help, and this is often attributed to societal attitudes around masculinity. Below are several male celebrities who have been helping to rewrite this narrative and end the stigma.
1. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson
He’s known for playing roles of the quintessential tough guy and maintaining a workout regimen to support this tough exterior. But, in recent years, he has opened up about his experience with depression, both as a teenager and as adult. In an interview with Express (4/1/18), he talked about how, at age 23, multiple injuries shattered his dream of playing professional football, leaving him depressed and hopeless: “I reached a point where I didn’t want to do a thing or go anywhere. I was crying constantly.” And on Oprah’s Master Class (4/15/15), he shared with viewers, “I found that with depression one of the most important things you could realize is that you’re not alone. You’re not the first to go through it. I wish I had someone at that time who could just pull me aside and [say], ‘Hey, it’s going to be okay.’”
2. Ryan Reynolds
He’s an A-list Hollywood superstar who has found success on the big screen but also has lived with anxiety most of his life. He recently told The New York Times (5/2/18), “I have anxiety, I’ve always had anxiety.” Despite countless appearances at high-profile events, Reynolds admitted he still experiences anxiety in the spotlight, “[b]oth in the lighthearted ‘I’m anxious about this’ kind of thing, and I’ve been to the depths of the darker end of the spectrum, which is not fun.” In his early twenties, this led him to self-medicating: “I was partying and just trying to make myself vanish in some way.” These days, Reynolds says he has learned how to use his acting as a way of stepping outside of his anxiety, and he employs mindfulness techniques.
3. Michael Phelps
The most decorated Olympic athlete in history is now tackling something he considers bigger than gold medals: mental health. In a recent Boston Globe interview (5/22/18), the swimmer discussed the depths of his experience with depression, including suicidal thoughts following his second drunk-driving arrest. He recounts, “I thought it would make things easier. I almost felt like it would be better for everybody if I wasn’t there. But the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to find a different route. I wanted to see if I could find some help. I wanted to see if I could get better.” Phelps says he still experiences challenging times, but overall he is in a much better place now. Currently, Phelps has switched his focus from obtaining gold medals to assisting others who are experiencing mental health issues to get help by connecting them with licensed mental health professionals.
4. Kendrick Lamar
For several years now, Kendrick Lamar has been using his music as an outlet to give voice to important themes around mental health, including depression, addiction, and suicide. Many of his lyrics are autobiographical, reflecting his own experience with depression and suicidal thoughts. His song “u” captures some of this emotion, “I know your secrets… I know depression is restin’ on your heart for two reasons…” The song ends with, “If I told your secrets/The world’ll know money can’t stop a suicidal weakness.” Lamar spoke about these lyrics in an MTV interview (4/6/15), stating, “I’ve pulled that song, not only from previous experiences, but, I think my whole life, I think everything is drawn out of that.”
If you’ve been experiencing problems of your own and not finding many solutions, you can rest assured you’re not alone. The examples above serve as a good reminder that if you have problems, you can still be successful; and if you’re successful, you can still have problems. As men, we may have been taught to value our physical health more than our mental health. But when you stop to think about it, what is more traditionally masculine than identifying a problem, accepting responsibility, seeking a solution, and taking action toward solving that problem? This is what counseling is all about. If you’re having a tough time in your life, reach out to us at Clarity Counseling Center and we can match you with the right counselor. It could be a game changer.