By Mike Jacquart
“Asking for help is not a sign of weakness,” writes Pastor Brad Hoefs in his landmark book, Fresh Hope: Living Well in Spite of a Mental Health Diagnosis.
Society, men especially, tend to see counseling as a signal that we are deficient in some way, unable to figure out our problems on our own. That is not the case.
And yet, an automotive tinkerer prides himself on being able to take on many car repairs on his own. He likes to think he has all the answers and never needs help from anyone else. To confess to requiring assistance, let alone admit to having a mental health condition, often results in being deemed weak and less manly.
As a result, many men, especially those in male-dominated professions, resist seeking professional help and turn to drugs or alcohol instead. Booze or a narcotic may seem to help temporarily, but the problem remains. “You can’t keep doing things the same way and expect different results.”
Seems simple enough, but even those who’ve heard that adage resist change. The truth is, it’s easier to keep drugging or drinking because at least it’s familiar, whereas seeking a thorough assessment from a licensed specialized professional like a psychologist or psychiatrist represents the unknown.
A drug or alcohol problem, job loss, or a wrecked relationship, may still make a person hesitant to seek help because a mental diagnosis and ensuing recovery seems even worse. “Real” men tough out their problems, don’t they? The truth is treatment and recovery involve less work than holding on to a hopeless mindset that somehow “you’re okay.”
At one time, I was convinced that employment, not psychological difficulties, was behind my problems. I had been anxious, depressed and worried for years, but I thought that somehow, someway I was only a job away from happiness. Then, in 2002, 21 years ago, I was so “sick and tired” of being “sick and tired” that I knew I HAD to try something different. What would it hurt to see a professional counselor? Was counseling going to make me feel WORSE?
Finally, at age 43, and after multiple job losses, with the encouragement of my wife I finally sought professional mental assistance. Doing so remains one of the smartest decisions I’ve ever made. I only wish I had come to that realization and sought help years earlier than I did.
But the past is the past. Thanks to the help of trained professionals, a supportive wife and friends, and divine intervention from a loving God, I am in a much better mental state than I was twenty years ago. God is in the business of restoring. If mental health assistance worked for me, it can work for you, too.