By Josh Rivedal
Men are willing to talk about the size of their prostate glands, or how much Viagra they’re allowed to take, but they’re still not willing to be open about their mental health.
If men want to live long, healthy and productive lives it’s absolutely crucial that the dialogue surrounding men’s mental health has to change.
I lost my father Douglas to suicide in 2009. Douglas lost his father Haakon to suicide in 1966. Each suffered from undiagnosed mental disorders and each suffered in silence because of the stigma surrounding men talking about and getting help for mental illness.
Haakon was dealing with post-traumatic stress after having been shot down in Hamburg, Germany, in 1941. Douglas may have been clinically depressed for a very long time, but my mother filing for divorce was a catalyst (not the cause) for his action in taking his own life.
In 2011, I had several catalysts for my own near-suicide attempt while in college: the dissolution of a relationship with a long-term girlfriend (similar to a divorce), a lack of work, and fallout from my mother’s betrayal. I was in terrible emotional pain and unknowingly suffering from clinical depression.
Standing at the ledge of a fourth floor window, I realized I didn’t want to die. I just wanted to end my inner torment. And I needed to break the familial cycle. So I came back inside, took a risk and asked for help by calling my mother.
Over the next few months I continued to take more risks. I called old friends to tell them I needed their support. I started talking to a therapist in my college’s counseling center. And no one ever told me I was crazy, stupid or a bad person. They told me they loved me and wanted to help me.
While recovering from clinical depression, I wanted to help other college students. So I started telling my story on colleges campuses all across the U.S. and Canada (175+ campuses to date). With it, I talk about the importance of mental health and suicide prevention. Most of my audiences were and still continue to be women. One of the things I’ve found is that men have a difficult time talking about and getting help for their mental health or if they’re feeling suicidal. There seems to be some societal pressure that says “You’re not a true man if you don’t have it all together, all the time.”
But for men and for anyone else struggling I have a simple message that’s simple yet profound. There’s always hope and help out there for you. As a man, a college student, a son, a friend, a human-being who has suffered from clinical depression, I can say from personal experience that this is not a character flaw or a weakness. It doesn’t make you any less of anything—a man, woman, two-spirit superhero, whatever. In fact, by asking for help it makes you stronger. It gives you a fighting chance to improve your life and become the person you want to be. Reach out to your family and friends and ask for help. Nip it in the bud before it can turn into a crisis.
This world is a beautiful tapestry of individual threads made of more than seven billion beautiful people—all telling an incredible, breathtaking, painful, miraculous story. We need you because without your thread, the tapestry of the human race becomes frayed and dull.
To learn more about Josh Rivedal, and his program offerings, visit campuspeak.com/rivedal.