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Dean Ken Eastman and Dalton Wolf interview students in the Business Plaza for the Buzz on Business podcast.

Men's Mental Health 

Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Spears & Sports Blog 

The Business Blog that keeps you in the game and up to date with everything OSU sports.

In this blog post we take a break from Spears and sports and address a deep topic that I am immensely passionate about. In light of Men’s Health Awareness Month, I wanted to address mental health and more narrowly men’s mental health and the impact business can have on it.  

I want to start this blog post off by telling you a little bit about my story. As a marketing and communications intern, I have the opportunity to tell others' stories, but I rarely get to share my own on a platform such as this. 

As I mentioned earlier, I am immensely passionate about men's mental health. It stems from my own story and my own struggles in life. I personally have wrestled with depression since my junior year of high school in 2018-19. I had some friend groups start to break apart and had a lot on my plate in high school. I was overwhelmed. I wrestled in silence for quite some time. I was afraid that people would think I was weak, seeking attention and that no one would understand. I figured I would just struggle with it alone. Truth be told, I was great at wearing a mask and acting like everything was alright when it wasn’t. No one really had a clue, even the people closest to me. I finally talked to a few friends briefly about it at the end of my senior year. Then I was off to college, and I never did anything to really help myself manage these episodes.   

I got to college in 2020 and was faced with the COVID pandemic, which as you can assume, didn’t help me at all. The pandemic made it challenging to connect with people, but I still managed to get involved with a college ministry called Cru. Through Cru, I started to form deep relationships where I could open up fully and start conversations about my mental health. It was awesome to finally not feel alone in my struggle with depression, but my struggles with mental health became more challenging despite finally seeking help.

I went through ups and downs. I finally told my family about my mental health struggles at the end of my freshman year, but the peak of my struggle with depression actually came after this. I had many struggles I was working through with school, friendships and other things in my life that took a toll on me and led to suicidal thoughts.  

However, I can say as I write this, I am the healthiest I’ve been in four or five years. One of my closest friends had my mom's number at the time and made a call to tell her what had been going on. It was a big push for me to seek help and start the process of improving my mental health. It was not all sunshine and rainbows. It was challenging with many difficult conversations and moments.

As a Christian, I leaned heavily on my faith and it made a huge difference. I have experienced only one minor mental stumble in almost six months, and I would not be where I am today without my faith and my incredible friends and the support of my family. 

As you can imagine, I got emotional just writing this because of how each one of them has supported me. I know most of them will read this and so to my friends and family, I say from the deepest part of my heart, I love you so much and I am so grateful to each one of you that is in my life. I would not be where I am right now without you guys. You guys saw and stood by me at my lowest, in the valley and now at the top of the mountain. This is just a glimpse into my story. There is so much I could talk about, but I share this transparently to highlight how important men’s mental health is to me and to bring awareness that it is a prevalent issue among college men as well.  

I know that firsthand for all ages of men, mental health is a huge challenge and issue that often goes unaddressed. Let me lay out some facts for you. According to the Priory Group, a mental health provider in the the United Kingdom, 75% of those who die by suicide across the globe are men, and 77% of men polled have suffered with common mental health symptoms like anxiety, stress or depression. What’s more, 29% of those men say they’re too embarrassed to speak about it. Forty percent of men have never spoken to anyone about their mental health.

Furthermore, Priory Group and Men’s Mental Health Forum inform us that 191,000 men a year report stress, depression or anxiety caused or made worse by work. Additionally, the biggest cause of mental health issues in men’s lives are work (32%), their finances (31%) and their health (23%). Work and business are clearly huge factors in mental health, especially for men.

Let me ask a couple of questions to get you thinking. There is no right or wrong answer, these are just to get the wheels turning. Do you think someone could ask for a mental health day explicitly and feel like they aren’t viewed like they are taking advantage of the mental health stigma or aren’t strong? How likely do you think a man struggling with mental health would actually ask their boss for a mental health day? Do you think the majority of men prioritize their mental health or their performance at work more? What do you think are the biggest challenges for men within work and business when it comes to mental health? 

Take a second and think about those questions. I could ask many more, but I want these questions to help convey how challenging it can be to navigate mental health let alone work and life challenges on top of that. 

So, what can we do? 
First, we must understand that mental health struggles and challenges look completely different for everyone who struggles. No two cases are ever the same.  

If you are personally struggling, I encourage and implore you to seek help. Your mental health is extremely important and you need to recognize that to get started in the right direction. Just take small steps. Maybe it’s finding one person you trust and know well to talk to. Then think about other options, finding healthier coping mechanisms, going to therapy, exercising and finding things to help you decompress. Maybe it is a better sleep schedule, practicing positive self-talk or even identifying what upsets you.

I am not a licensed professional or therapist, so by no means do I have all the answers or am I saying these things will definitely work for you. I just want to encourage you if you are struggling with mental health to start the process of healing and getting better. A wise friend of mine told me “progress is not always a straight line.” It may not be easy, but let my story encourage you to start working toward a life with better mental health.  

If you are supporting someone that struggles with mental health or notice someone struggling with mental health, I want to communicate it is not your job to counsel or solve someone's mental health struggles. However, it is your responsibility to be kind to them and care for them. I know from personal experience one of the most helpful things my friends and family did for me was just listen and be present. They were there for me. The second thing I noticed that really helped me was they never, ever invalidated my feelings. They might not have understood why I felt the way I did sometimes, but they affirmed me gently and in love positively. Then finally, I encourage you to be as consistent as possible. My friends and family persisted in helping me through the difficulties of life and never once made me feel judged or that I was weak or alone.  

Now, this blog post is not meant to be the formula for solving all the mental health issues or challenges for men or women. However, it is to bring awareness to the ongoing epidemic of mental health struggles, especially for men. I hope my story and this blog challenge you to deeply value mental health for yourself and the others who surround you. This could be at your workplace, your home or in your community. That said, I urge you to be attentive and join me in fighting for better mental health in the business world and life. 

Story By: Dalton Wolf | dalton.wolf10@okstate.edu

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