Ethos Behavioral Health Group co-founder and Chief Business Officer Will Davis talks mental health for men in this Q and A. With a passion for helping others, especially when it comes to mental health and substance use, Will is a husband and father of six with a career in commercial real estate spanning 15+ years and over a decade of business development and management.
Q: It seems like no one talks about men’s mental health. Why is that?
A: I feel like that has been the case historically. Growing up, many of us were encouraged to be tough and not to cry, which means talking about sadness or fear is generally off the table.
What I have noticed is that a lot of discussions relating to men seem more focused on achievement and success—more typically centered around work or sports for example. These topics are easier to focus on than how we feel during the process.
However, I have really sensed a shift in this, especially during the pandemic, where people have been able to slow down a little and reflect on what’s important. We are seeing more and more articles about men’s topics that involve mental health and mental wellness.
Q: Why is it important for men to talk about their mental health?
A: If you’re not discussing your feelings, you’re leaving out a huge portion of your life. Processing these feelings allows us to learn, grow, and especially to heal from those experiences that really stick with us. Communicating with others on a deeper level and learning that there are others that share similar experiences and feelings helps us understand that we’re not alone, to learn about ourselves and others and to not feel so isolated. It’s worth noting that among high-income nations, men commit suicide at a rate three times higher than women. Isolation leads to a lack of hope, and lack of hope leads to a greater risk for suicide. It’s a pretty simple equation, so don’t hold it in. Don’t isolate yourself.
Q: Studies also show that men are less likely to seek help for their mental health. Why do you think that is?
A: For many men, and for people in general, it can be as simple as the fear of finding out something is wrong. It can also be related to the societal stigma of seeming weak when we open up or ask for help. There is a certain vulnerability that comes with sharing our lives, emotions and experiences. This type of communication, like any skill, requires practice. Like playing the piano—the more we do it, the better we get. However, it can be really hard to get started; this doesn’t just apply to negative experiences and emotions, but to positive ones as well. Even sharing happiness and love can be difficult at first, but it becomes easier with practice.
Q: What does taking care of your mental health look like as a man, or as a father?
A: One piece of advice that I would give is to practice sharing your feelings openly in a welcoming, safe place, whether that means a group facilitated by a professional therapist, an individual therapist or even a friend who is emotionally supportive. Look for something, or someone, that can provide a safe space to open up, knowing that the response will be kind, receptive and non-judgemental.
Having dealt with substance use in my own life, and having been through my own treatment, I have maintained some type of group attendance throughout my 20 years in recovery, and I have learned the value of connecting with others who have shared the same experiences. In my experience, group therapy is one of the most effective ways to begin and sustain emotional growth, not to mention manage resentment, anger and other negative feelings. It helps to watch people model the growth you are aiming for, and to hear your own experiences and emotions reflected back and know that you are not alone. My business partner Robert, who is also one of my closest friends, always reminds us that the opposite of addiction is not sobriety, it’s connection, and that is what my goal is—to be and stay connected.
Developing a spiritual practice has also been incredibly helpful for me lately, which is not to say religious practice necessarily. Anything spiritual—meditation, mindfulness and even exercise like running, walking or yoga—any way of exploring and connecting with yourself can be extremely effective in learning to acknowledge and accept our feelings and discover ourselves and our needs. My advice is to search for something that helps in the practice of being present. This is extremely important to me, especially as a father.
Many of the things I just mentioned—sharing your feelings, being present, developing a spiritual practice—are elements that impact a host of relationships. For me, they have a positive impact on my relationship with my wife and they serve as behaviors to model for my kids; they learn from example.
"The bravest thing you can do is to be yourself in a world that’s constantly telling you to be someone else."
Q: Is there anything you would like to add?
A: There’s a quote I heard that always sticks with me: “The bravest thing you can do is to be yourself in a world that’s constantly telling you to be someone else.” Especially in our current world, learning to be present and authentic is one of the most important and helpful things we can do. It is always so difficult.
A friend of mine and Robert’s sent us a short poem by David Whyte called “Close.” I re-read it pretty regularly. It really helps remind me that while it is helpful and natural to have goals, it’s best not to ignore the process of getting there.
Lastly, I really enjoy starting these conversations with others and helping people get connected. If there is anyone reading this who would like help making mental well-being a priority, just reach out; I would be happy to help.
Ethos Wellness healing centers offer individual, group and family therapy by a team of experienced, compassionate, master’s-level clinicians, both in-person and via telehealth. If you or someone you know could use support in learning to care for their mental health or are seeking a safe space for emotional growth and connection, please reach out to our client care team confidentially by tapping here.