THE BLOG

Real Men Talk About Their Feelings -- For Real

01/13/2014 08:37 am ET | Updated Aug 31, 2015

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 disorder 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.

There's a relatively new case study in The Journal of Men's Health that says that men are affected tremendously by divorce. They have higher rates of alcohol and drug abuse, depression and detach themselves from personal relationships and social support.

In 2011, I had several catalysts for my own near-suicide attempt: 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 got into therapy. 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 youth and other men like me. So I used a biographical one-man play, The Gospel According to Josh, about my foray into show business along with my father's suicide and took it to high schools, colleges and community centers all across the U.S. and Canada. 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 I have a message for men everywhere that's simple yet profound. There's always hope and help out there for you. As a man 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 a man. In fact, by asking for help it makes you a stronger man. 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.

And while I'm not a mental-health professional, here are several resources to where you can ask for additional help from a professional if you need it: ManTherapy.org -- an interactive tool to learn about men's mental health; MentalHealthAmerica.net -- find your local chapter of Mental Health America, a place where you can find information to help you live mentally well; SuicidePreventionLifeline.org -- a general crisis line where you can reach out 24/7 to speak with someone if you're feeling suicidal.

Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.