Why Leaders Need to Understand Mental Health

Jann FreedLeading, Living Leave a Comment

This post is a follow up to my blog post “Why Workplaces Would Improve if Men had more Friends.”  As I thought more about the topic, it is not just workplaces, but society in general needs to understand the crisis taking place.  This crisis is affecting families, workplaces, and most relationships.  

Recently, I attended an event that I can’t stop thinking about:  “Rebound with Courage:  An Evening with Royce White.”  This was hosted by the Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center (DMPCC).  For people in Iowa, Royce White was a hero as a basketball star for Iowa State University (ISU).  His 2011-12 season at ISU was one of the best.  White led the team in all five categories–scoring, rebounding, assists, steals, and blocks!  And he was the only NCAA player to accomplish that.  But White was also becoming a mental health advocate because he suffers from anxiety.  White was selected 16th overall in the NBA draft to the Houston Rockets.  But Royce White is much more than a 6 foot 8 inch point guard.Image may contain: 2 people, people standing and indoor

Photo:  Sarah Hayes

DMPCC brought White to be their keynote speaker as a result of a committee that started meeting three years ago and realized three concerns:

  1. 9 of 10 graduating to become therapists are women. The DMPCC often receive requests for a male therapist. How can we satisfy this need?
  2. DMPCC is known for the “Women Helping Women” event.  It is their primary fundraising event and very successful in raising funds and in increasing their brand recognition based on binary gender. What more can we do?
  3. DMPCC want to grow as providers and be advocates for the issues of mental health that are specific to boys and men, who are less likely to seek help and more likely to harm self or others.  How can we serve the needs of more males? From The Presentation Project, we learn that boys are subjected conflicting messages on a daily basis. “Messages that favor dominance over empathy. Physical strength over compassion. Violence over kindness. Sex over love. It’s a hard time to be a boy, and the facts are something that should give us all pause. Today, boys are more likely to be expelled or kicked out of school than girls. Young men are only 43 percent of enrollees in post-secondary institutions. Boys are more likely to engage in violent crime, binge drinking, and drugs. Male campus sexual assault is commonplace, and mass shootings involving boys and men have become an epidemic. Jails are packed to the rafters with men. And men commit 79 percent of all suicides in the United States. The status quo is unacceptable.”

Given these statistics, boys and men are less likely to reach out for help.  Royce White said “Mental health is the greatest social issue we face.” But White reminded us that males are asking for help, but in a different way.  They act out by using anger, rage, violence.  They numb out using alcohol, drugs, the internet, or anything that numbs their feelings.  They are screaming for help and we need to wake up and do something about this because status quo is not acceptable.

White is not playing for a NBA team even though he knows he could and thinks he should be playing.  He shared the reactions and negativity he has received for speaking out about mental health issues.  One of the main points that stuck with me was when he compared the NBA to a business.  He said, “The NBA is a business so why don’t they want their players to be healthy both physically and mentally.  Organizations should want their employees to be at the top of their game in order to be the most productive and satisfied.”  This makes perfect sense.  When employees have physical issues, the goal is to help them heal.  The same should be true for our mental health.

Jesse Lyn Stoner wrote a post that is a great read:  “Why Men Don’t Have Friends and Why Women Should Care.” What Stoner describes matters in the workplace.  We may not have to deal with #metoo issues if people could get the help they need to process issues in healthy ways.  Jesse Eisenberg is in a new movie “The Art of Self-Defense” that is being marketed as a critique of modern masculinity.  It is being described as “a dark comedy that’s equal parts amusing and disturbing.” As they say, truth is often stranger than fiction.

A topic that is trending is toxic masculinity defined as adherence to traditional male gender roles that restrict the kinds of emotions allowable for boys and men to express, including social expectations that men seek to be dominant (the “alpha male”) and limit their emotional range primarily to expressions of anger.  Males need to realize it is possible to be masculine without being toxic and creating toxic workplaces.

Royce White is an effective speaker with a strong message.  He is charismatic and is rebounding with courage.  It takes courage to not let money drive all decisions.  There is no doubt that he has forfeited millions, but he is on a mission to help people understand mental health issues.  He said, “Mental health is like physical health.  We all have both.  It is a matter of how well we are functioning in each.”  And how well we function affects all of our relationships wherever we go–home, workplace, community.  White made it seem natural to be vulnerable–that vulnerability is a true strength.

As the mother of three sons, White’s message got my full attention.  We all need to get the help we need when we need it.  We all need to rebound with courage.  It takes courage to seek help and it takes courage to help others.

Whom do you know who could use some help?

Who is numbing themselves so that they don’t have to deal with their issues?  

How might you help them?  Do you have the courage?  

To watch a 13 minute video clip of Royce White’s presentation, click here (and page down).