MINDS & MEN

"His speech had overtones not of thought, but of understanding beyond thought.” - Of Mice & Men

The best offense is the one that exists.

When the Seahawks destroyed the Broncos in Superbowl XLVIII in one of the biggest blowouts in NFL playoff history, it didn’t matter that the matchup was best defense (fear the Boom) against the league’s best offense. Seattle simply dominated every aspect of the game (all due respect to the Sheriff). Denver’s 8 points wasn’t much, but 8 points has won some football games (heck - it would have beat the Seahawks last Sunday). The point is, when you dominate every aspect of a game, of course you’re going to win.

But somehow, guys forget this when it comes to our own health. A lot of us only play defense. We play to not lose rather than build up a lead. We say, “Unless I can see the bone sticking out of my arm, I’m not going to the doctor,” or “I can’t see chunks of brain falling out my nose, so no way I’m talking to some shrink about anger or stress.” That’s like punting on 1st down. Or the offensive coordinator telling his guys to get back to the sideline when they've got the ball. It doesn’t make sense. Part of the game is about getting ahead. Playing offense before you’re down two scores. Making sure bad things don’t happen before they do. In the 2000 football classic, The Replacements, Gene Hackman plays a coach who tells the QB (Keanu Reeves), “Winners always want the ball when the game is on the line.” (Which is why you need to feed Marshawn on the goal line!! Why didn’t Seattle feed the Beast against New England?!). As men, we need to take our health into our own hands. Otherwise we’re only putting our defensive unit out there. Defense might win championships, but I’ve never seen a Super Bowl winner put a fat goose egg on the scoreboard.

And the game is on the line for men right now. Men kill themselves at more than double the rate of women. Yeah, double. Like 2x. As in twice as much. Around 80% of all suicides in the U.S. are men. And overall, we die sooner than women, especially due to heart disease and substance abuse.

I was always taught that being a man meant that I shouldn’t need any help from others. Well here’s the reality. Last year we did a research study looking at what self-reliance is related to for men (the findings got presented at the annual convention of the American Psychological Association). Here’s the rundown. The more men solely rely on themselves, the worse their relationships are, the more depression they’ve got, and the less courage, resilience, endurance, self-esteem, and life satisfaction they have. Across 17 studies and over 4,000 men, self-reliance was related to a total of 25 negative outcomes. In other words, being proud of being self-reliant isn’t working for us. Because science.

As a man, I have a responsibility to myself and the people who love and rely on me to be the best man I can be. That means having the strength to take care of myself using all the tools at my disposal to do so. Reluctantly, that probably means a couple more visits to some doctors to get my mental and physical health offense on the field.

Checkout Mantherapy.org for some resources on brain health and stay in tune with Minds & Men for more updates.

*Why Minds & Men: Men are taught a lot about what it means to be a man. Psychological research provides a bunch of evidence for what aspects of “masculinity” can be harmful and helpful. Here we aim to shed light on some of these findings and provide ways for men to become better men (without being intellectual pricks about it).

**Author: Zach Gerdes has a master’s degree in counseling and is getting a doctorate in psychology. He’s a Seahawks fan still in mourning after the 2015 Super Bowl loss to the Pats.  

©2017: Zachary Gerdes