Promoting Hope, Preventing Suicide

Research and advice on preventing teen and adult suicide

Can “ManTherapy” Engage Men in Mental Health?

A new mental health promotion campaign specifically for men

I’ve been writing a lot about men and mental health the past few weeks — in fact, in looking over my posts from the last five weeks, every one has, in one way or another, been about the population most at risk for suicide in the U.S. — middle-aged men.

This topic has been part of public discourse a lot lately — whether it was Joe Biden talking about his suicidal thinking, Patrick J. Kennedy talking about mental health parity, or for those who watch ‘Mad Men,’ Lane Pryce’s suicide.

So, now is kind of the perfect time to launch a campaign about men’s mental health — just when a lot of people are already paying attention.

The Colorado Office of Suicide Prevention plus Colorado-based Carson J. Spencer Foundation partnered with ad agency Cactus to create an online campaign called ManTherapy.

The website is hosted by a fictional therapist, Dr. Rich Mahogany, depicted in the New York Times as a man “whose personality might be described as Dr. Phil meets Ron Burgundy, Will Ferrell’s fictional anchorman.” (Having checked out the site, I’d have to say I agree.)

Dr. Mahogany guides visitors through sections including “Man Therapies” (links and information about different ways to take care of yourself or get care), “Gentlemental Health” (an introduction to mental health issues that are common among men), and “Tales of Triumph and Victory” (testimonials of men who have gotten help and gotten better).

What I like: The creativity of this campaign — the character of Dr. Rich Mahogany, his outlandish office outfitted with stereotypical men’s things (such as a moose head on the wall!), and the one-stop-shop nature of the website, which is a great compendium of resources for men in Colorado and nationally.

What I’m left wondering: If the humor of some of the over-the-top stereotypes will break through the stigma of mental illness. And if this campaign will effectively reach men who really don’t fit into stereotypes about men (I think that’s most men). Will they be turned off by the campaign, or engaged?

All that said, the campaign’s been getting good press and lots of attention on Facebook and Twitter — most of which has acknowledged how much humor can help make a difficult-to-discuss topic easier to navigate.

I’m very curious what you think — especially those of you who fall into this campaign’s target demographic: 25-64 year-old men. Check out the campaign at mantherapy.org and please chime in with your comments below.

Copyright 2012 Elana Premack Sandler, All Rights Reserved

Photo: NewYorkTimes.com

Elana Premack Sandler, M.S.W., M.P.H., is a public health social worker specializing in violence and injury prevention and adolescent health promotion.

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