TW: The following blog post discusses suicide, mental illness, and mental health.
Around this time two years ago, one of closest childhood friends took his own life. I was completely blindsided. The man I had seen 3 months prior seemed excited for his future, telling stories of college, laughing, and cruising downtown with a big smile. Now, he was no longer around. It didn’t seem possible. How could someone be so positive on the surface yet hold such a deeper turmoil hidden from everyone around him? Sadly, this quiet struggle is much more prevalent in our society than one might think, or even want to believe.
According to the National Center of Health Statistics, approximately 1 in 10 men across the US suffered from anxiety or depression. Less than half of these men have ever sought out treatment. Now, with the unpredictable and challenging times due to COVID-19, the Center for Disease Control estimates that this number has increased by 4x. Furthermore, Utah has the 5th highest suicide rate in the country. In 2019, it was the leading cause of death for Utahan ages 10-24. Males were 3.5x more likely to die by suicide than females.
Men’s mental health struggles have been referred to as a hidden epidemic. Although people of all genders are affected by mental health challenges, it can become a very dangerous experience for men, especially the ages 18-25. There is a large disparity when it comes to men addressing and treating mental health issues. Why? It could be the “un-masculine” stigma around talking about one's feelings and showing vulnerability that can be extremely hard for some. Whatever the reason, it often leaves one alone to battle a tidal wave of uncertainty, questions of self-worth, and a feeling of hopelessness without anyone even knowing.
It's Men's Mental Health week. The goal of this week is to open a conversation about these struggles and challenges. We hope to give resources for detecting, treating, and mitigating any further negative consequences of mental health issues. We want to let men know that they are not alone -- that their feelings do not control them or define who they are; that the anxiety, depression, anger, stress is not their fault; that these feelings cannot just be willed away; that sharing their mental health struggles with others does not make them weak, less of a man, or a burden to others as much as they may believe it, and that talking about these struggles and being open is one of the hardest things someone can do. However, it is one of the best places to start towards learning to understand and live with one’s own inner landscape.
I have personally struggled with depression and anxiety for most of my life. They have taken me to dark places, made me question my own self-worth, pulled me back from friends and family. But since I first opened up about my struggles, I now know that these thoughts, feelings, and emotions do not define who I am or what I am capable of. I get to choose how I react to these feelings every time they come around. I can attest that this is a longer battle than one conversation with a loved one or a quick counseling session, and that some days still get the best of you even after years of work. However, every day is a practice, and I work to use the strategies I have found such as exercise, the outdoors, and good friends to keep me from letting these feelings define how I live my life.
Mental health is a hard conversation topic for nearly everyone but it is a necessary place to go in order to check up on each other and get the help to those who need it most. By giving this topic even more light, we can help those who are struggling to find the strength to fight on and learn to live with their inner turmoil. If you are struggling personally please know that you are not alone and that you are worth it. Below are resources for those in crisis all the way to those who are just wanting to learn more about mental health in their community.
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: (800) 273-TALK (8255)
- Utah Mobile Crisis Outreach Team: for both Salt Lake County and statewide: (801)-587-3000
- Utah Suicide Prevention Coalition: Very helpful educational articles and resources
- University of Utah Counseling Center: the on-campus counseling center will get you linked to a personalized therapist, affordable
- Safe-UT App Link: Crisis chat and tip line, 24/7, confidential, and always free
- University of Utah Health Crisis Diversion for Intervention, Hospital Diversion, and Warm Line Services
- Your self-care expert chat bot app: https://woebothealth.com
- The Trevor Project: The leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer & questioning (LGBTQ+) young people under 25
- Man Therapy: Great resource for men to begin looking at their own mental health
- Prevent Suicide: Question. Persuade. Refer. Trainings for suicide prevention
- National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Utah: 801-323-9900, Toll Free 877-230-6264
- Permission to Grieve: For Survivors of a Loved One's Suicide: http://health.utah.gov/vipp/pdf/Suicide/grievebooklet_final0605.pdf
- Utah Suicide Statistics
Will Slattery is a Junior studying Biomedical Engineering. He is ACES Peer Health Educator on the Sexual Wellness team.
Eleanor Asma is a Junior studying Social Work. She is ACES Peer Health Educator on the Harm Reduction team.