Opening Up About Your Mental Health Is A STRONG Thing To Do
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Health and Wellness

My Dad's Mental Health Struggle Doesn't Make Him Weak, It Only Makes Him Stronger

I am so proud of the example he's setting for men everywhere.

My Dad's Mental Health Struggle Doesn't Make Him Weak, It Only Makes Him Stronger
Lauren Oaster
"If someone tells you that they struggle with mental illness, tell them that you hope they never stop struggling. Because not struggling means that the depression wins. Then help them fight it, because it's a tough battle."

- My dad, who struggles with mental illness, and also inspired this article

Confronting mental illness is hard, plain and simple. It's hard to go through it yourself, and it's also hard to watch the people you love go through it.

Of course, everyone knows about the stigma surrounding mental health and how it's considered taboo in certain situations. On top of that, 49% of men admit to being more depressed than they let on to their loved ones, and men die by suicide 3.5x as often as women do.

My dad is one of those men, but he is working through it. I'm more proud of him than I've ever been. Making the decision to admit yourself to inpatient care and acknowledging the fact that you need the kind of help your loved ones can't give you is beyond brave. I can't help my dad conquer his depression, but I can be right by his side while he does it. At the end of the day, I want him at my wedding. I want him to see me graduate college and I want him to be able to hold his first grandchild.

Dads are strong. Dads are supposed to protect their daughters and they're the ones who provide comfort, but sometimes a dad needs his daughter just a little bit more than she needs him.

My dad is strong, he always has been, and the state of his mental health does not change that.

My dad, in particular, has a hockey icon as a guide through this tough journey — a Chicago Blackhawks goalie by the name of Robin Lehner. He won the Bill Masterton trophy for 2019, which is awarded to the player who best exemplifies perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication. In his speech, he talked about his struggles with mental health and how it is OK to struggle and that it is OK to talk about it.

I think this spoke to my dad, and he nothing short of idolizes Robin Lehner. My stepmom and I got my dad a puck autographed by him and he carried it around in his pocket to the point where the signature started to wear away. I firmly believe that Lehner opening up about his own struggles is part of the reason my dad is still here — Robin Lehner, if by some miracle you happen to read this I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for being courageous enough to talk about it.

What I'm getting at here is this: let's talk about mental health more, especially when it comes to men.

It's time to end the stigma. Having a mental health disorder does not make you weak, and it does not make you less than. Mental health is just as important as physical health, and our brains are muscles just as much as our arms and legs are. If your arm or leg isn't working, you go to a doctor to help fix it, and it's time we start treating mental health the same way. So, if you're struggling, keep struggling. You are stronger than whatever is plaguing you as you read this.

If you or someone you know needs help with substance abuse or mental health issues, call 800-662-HELP (4357) for the SAMHSA National Helpline.

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