As the importance of mental health becomes more widely accepted in the United States, men are still battling the stigma that it should not be discussed.
But that changed recently when famous MMA fighter Paddy “the Baddie” Pimblett delivered a moving public message after a fight, saying he has been struggling himself.
In his post-fight speech, Pimblett spoke about a close friend of his who had taken his life only days before the fight. He urged men to talk about their issues.
“I’d rather my mate cry on my shoulder than go to his funeral," he said.
The speech was an important message to men worldwide.
“I saw that clip of Paddy and I was just stopped. I had that sense of 'finally,'” said Eric French, a psychiatrist at the Mind Spa in Denver. “[Men] have these conceptions about [themselves] that we’re supposed to be strong, stoic, press forward no matter what is going on but we are human beings and that means there are aspects of ourselves that are no less real if we acknowledge them or not; that being our emotional state. And if acknowledging your emotional state makes you vulnerable, that’s not a bad thing.”
“I was always taught that a man is supposed to be strong, courageous. You bottle up all your feelings,” said Sam Peterson, a retired war veteran.
Peterson knows about that stigma first-hand. He was a bomb technician in Afghanistan for more than four years. The PTSD he developed from his time in the Army nearly led him to take his own life in 2014.
“It was very much like panic attacks, and, you know, I very nearly ended my own life because of it,” he said. “I had my .45 in my hand, you know, ready to pull the trigger and I got a text message from one of my very good friends and he’s like hey man come over. I sat down on the couch and I just bawled my eyes out for like three hours. Just letting it all out and it felt like someone had just taken my soul out of my body and just washed it in bleach and stuck it back in.”
After the speech by Pimblett, who is from the U.K., mental health clinicians in the region reported seeing more men coming to their practice for help.
“You have to have someone there who can hold up a mirror to your biases and help you break them down or you’re just going to be stuck in the same rut,” said Peterson.
“If you’re struggling and you get the sense that this feeling you’re having is not going away, it’s not going to go away,” added French. “It’s going to stay there until you face it.”