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June is Men’s Health Month, a time when men are encouraged to take better care of themselves, both physically and mentally. According to Mental Health America:
Ryan Mertz, behavior specialist at Rogers in San Francisco East Bay, says stigma prevents men from seeking the help they need.
“There continues to be a perception among men that asking for help makes them look weak or not masculine,” says Mertz. “Men think they are supposed to be strong and not show vulnerability. When men open up and talk about their mental health, it helps others know they can do the same.”
Mertz says he’s encouraged by media interviews like those with Michael Phelps and Prince Harry that shine the spotlight on this important topic.
“They create room for men’s mental health to be talked about more openly rather than sweeping it under the rug,” Mertz explains. “We need to change the idea of what mental health support is. It’s not being weak. For men who feel like they need to be strong and independent, asking for help makes them feel incapable and incompetent, like they can’t handle things on their own, and for some, it affects their dignity.”
Mertz says the first step of seeking help is acknowledging you have an impairment in your life– something that is keeping you from living the life you want to live.
“When men show up at this clinic, I encourage them and tell them it’s courageous and brave to seek help when you know you need it,” says Mertz. “I want men who are struggling to know they’re not alone, and they recognize that when they get here. During group therapy, men see other people dealing with similar issues, and it creates a safe place for them to share.”
Mertz says one of the most important things Rogers teaches its patients is how to practice self-compassion.
“Self-compassion is being able to accept yourself – treating yourself the way you would treat a friend,” explains Mertz. “If a friend talked to you like you talk to yourself in your own thoughts, would you like it? We teach patients how to respond to those negative and critical thoughts. Men default to thinking ‘I need to be hard on myself to be motivated,’ and it’s tough to get to the place of ‘I’m proud of myself’.”
Mertz explains how practicing self-compassion helped a former patient.
“I worked with a man who, like a lot of men, kept his emotions bottled up inside. He never took time to care for and accept himself. After being in therapy and practicing self-compassion, I have never seen anyone come so far,” says Metz. “We worked on how to be kind to himself when he didn’t live up to his own expectations and the importance of celebrating the gains no matter how small they might be.”
If you or someone you love is struggling with a mental health challenge, Rogers offers multiple levels of care nationwide.
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