Monster: ‘Man Therapy’ Humors Guys To Confront Suicide
Psychologist and man Dr. Rich Mahogany says manly men like manly things like sports, beer, cars, power tools, and, you know.
Dr. Mahogany isn't a psychologist even though he has an office, a desk, a leather chair, a bookcase, and a trophy and dart board on the wall.
He isn't even real.
But Dr. Mahogany is the face of ManTherapy.org, "therapy the way a man would do it." That means he can tell jokes, poke fun at manly things, and give BS-free advice to encourage men to look at themselves to deal with depression and suicide.
The good fictitious doctor is the brainchild of Sally Spencer-Thomas' and her Denver-based Carson J. Spencer Foundation, she said Thursday at the Wyoming Suicide Prevention Conference hosted by the Natrona County Suicide Prevention Task Force.
So why is a woman promoting suicide prevention for men?
"Four out of five people who die by suicide are men," she said.
Spencer-Thomas' 34-year-old brother Carson was among those: brilliant, an entrepreneur, and a family man.
But in 2004 his life unraveled as he left his family, cut off ties with his business colleagues, lived recklessly, and went broke by November. He went into a severe depression, lost 30 pounds, and couldn't sleep for a month, Spencer-Thomas said. "He was a tortured soul."
He came back to his family, briefly reconnected with his family, but lost hope and killed himself on Dec. 7, 2004, she said. "It was the loss of that hope that killed him, even more than the pain of his psychological illness."
That angered her, so she and family and friends began brainstorming how to not let him be forgotten and to help men like her brother. So she created the foundation, and enlisted the help of Cactus Marketing Communications and Colorado's Office of Suicide Prevention.
Besides Man Therapy, the foundation offers other programs: The Fire Within to develop youth leadership to deal with suicide, iCare Packages of age-appropriate gifts and resources for those bereaved by suicide, and Working Minds to prevent suicide in the workplace.
But before they could develop programs, they needed to gather research and look at the culture that breeds a high rate of suicide among men, Spencer-Thomas said.
Men, she said, learn not to be sissies by voicing their feelings; strive to be the "big wheel" for success with their families, jobs and communities; stand as the "strong oak" as tough guys; and when push comes to shove, shove back and give them hell.
That leaves little room for dealing with life's punches of job loss, mental and physical illness, substance abuse, and divorce.
And Spencer-Thomas found those men who were knocked down, hit bottom, and were willing to tell their stories, she said.
The results were phenomenal.
"We did interviews with men who had survived suicide attempts who are now thriving, she said. "That's the big black box in our work, that we had not done a good enough job in investigating. We need to talk to people who have been to the depths of that despair and learn what works for them."
Man Therapy's most powerful videos are of those who have attempted suicide, she said.
"So Man Therapy is our attempt, our bold attempt to connect with men, men who maybe have a number of risk factors who are also least likely to seek care on their own -- the most vulnerable men -- and let them know that they're not alone, that there are resources that can help them and maybe there are even some tools that can help them fix themselves."
September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month.
Casper resident Lance Neiberger lost his son to suicide nine years ago. He recently told K2 Radio suicide is like a monster in the closet that has power over us as long we don’t want to deal with it. “But if we can open that closet door and see that there’s something there that can be dealt with, then that monster doesn’t hold the power that it used to.”
K2 Radio will talk to others who have grappled with suicide and why it affects our communities and state so deeply.
And we will look what has and is being done to identify and tame this monster among us.