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PatientsLikeMe member John films WebMD depression video

Brits are boosting men’s mental health — can the U.S. follow suit?

The British Royals’ passion for improving mental health is giving us all the feels — and possibly helping reduce male suicide rates in the U.K. Who’s raising awareness of men’s mental health in the U.S.? (See how PatientsLikeMe member John, pictured above, is doing his part!)

Diverging stats in the U.K. and U.S.

The U.K. has been making progress in terms of reducing male suicide rates and the stigma around men’s mental health, thanks in part to Heads Together campaign launched by Prince William, Kate Middleton and Prince Harry in 2016. Each of them have their own areas of focus in mental health advocacy.

Kate deserves credit for coming up with the idea to join forces for one major campaign, Prince William says. He and his brother have also been opening up about their grief from losing their mother during their childhood.

Unfortunately, U.S. suicide rates (among men and women) have been on the rise, according to the latest CDC report, and stigma still surrounds mental health — especially among men.

The American Psychological Association (APA) says that about 6 million American men suffer from depression every year, but men are far less likely than women to seek help for their mental health. U.S. psychology researchers are studying “how the traditional male role — which restricts emotional expression and encourages a pre-occupation with success, power and competition — is associated with negative physical and psychological consequences, such as depression, anxiety and relationship problems,” the APA says.

U.S. campaigns and emerging voices

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) launched the “Real Men. Real Depression.” campaign in 2003, and other organizations and initiatives have sprung up, including:

A few high-profile guys have also opened up recently about their mental health struggles. In May 2018, Olympic champion swimmer Michael Phelps partnered with online therapy provider Talkspace to share his story of therapy helping him through severe depression and suicidal thoughts in 2014.

“Throughout my career, I struggled with depression and anxiety at various times, and I found it so difficult to get the help I needed,” Phelps says, noting that he went for days on end without leaving his room. “As I started opening up and talking about my issues, I felt strength, not vulnerability.”

In an August 2018 Boston Globe interview, Celtics basketball player Paul Pierce said that he privately struggled with depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress after he was stabbed in a nightclub in 2000.

PatientsLikeMe member John shares about MDD with WebMD

John (JohnJFB126), a member of the 2016-2017 Team of Advisors, is raising his voice as a man living with major depressive disorder (MDD). He’s partnering with WebMD Education to share his perspective in an educational series aiming to help patients, caregivers and clinicians learn more about the mental health condition. John recently came to Boston to film a series of short videos for the series.

“I decided to share my experience because I know the power associated with exposure and advocacy,” John says. “As an ‘everyday’ guy, who has a wife, family and career, and who’s also had the MDD experience, it’s imperative — almost mandatory — for me to give expression to this disease. With the appropriate treatment, living with and getting through MDD is very possible. Remember you’re not alone.”

John says he hopes others will continue to open up about mental health, “especially those who have attained celebrity notoriety — their audience is usually vast, and this would place a recognizable face on the disease.”

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