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Father’s Day: ‘Show young men what it means to be a healthy man’

June is Men’s Health Month and also Father’s Day. These observances are an opportunity to open up conversations about the connection between physical and mental well-being. As part of overall health, mental health affects daily life, including self-care and routine tasks.

It also has an important impact on relationships.

Men face cultural and social challenges that can prevent them from recognizing challenging feelings that demonstrate they may need mental health support. “Don’t cry.” “Hide your feelings.” “Tough it out.”

These common phrases add to the already-existing stigma that prevents men from seeking support for depression, anxiety or addiction. I want men to know that it’s OK to be vulnerable. We’re all human beings. We all feel. We all go through things that others can relate to.

I often see these attitudes lead to self-medication, which can lead to substance and alcohol use as a coping mechanism. American Indian and Alaska Native people report serious mental health distress 2.5 times more than the general population over a month’s time, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Here are few things men can do to take charge of their mental health:

* Create a physical exercise routine to help reduce anxiety, depression, and negative moods.

* Reach out to someone. Start with something small to practice asking for help.

* Exercise patience and don’t take yourself too seriously.

* Get out of your comfort zone. Especially if what’s comfortable is being angry.

* Acknowledge the good moments, while recognizing life will always be a series of ups and downs.

* Avoid negative self-talk: “I can’t” turns into “I won’t.” At that point, you cut off all possibilities for things to get better.

* Build a support system for mental health to feel less alone.

* Connect with others who have been through similar situations.

There is power in publicly sharing experiences, even within families, to reduce stigma. Sharing stories can spark important conversations, allow for better understanding and let people know they are not alone.

As a community, here are a few ways we can support men.

* Offer kind words to loved ones struggling with addiction.

* Learn more about mental health, addiction and recovery resources.

* Provide transportation for someone to a support group or treatment.

* Open up discussions at home.

* Make the effort to try to understand what someone else is going through.

* When possible, attend a group that your loved one is in.

* Ask someone: “How are you? Do you need anything?”

At Southern Ute Behavioral Health, we meet people where they are through community collaborations, from suicide and crisis prevention to substance and alcohol use groups that we host.

We collaborate with departments such as the Natural Resources Division to give gun and hunter safety education classes. We talk about mental health and crisis and suicide prevention. We use research-proven harm reduction practices here at our center to lessen the negative effects of substances on users and support our community members. Being a peer recovery coach gives me the opportunity to navigate all those great areas.

Father’s Day comes with a wide range of emotions. Some men have uncomfortable father-son relationships or lack positive role models. As a dad, I’ve always been reluctant to be celebrated because of what I saw projected from previous generations. “It’s just another day.”

This year, I’m excited to reconsider my stance on Father’s Day. I encourage us all to reimagine what it can look like when we recognize the importance of acknowledging fatherhood and male mental health.

There are so many possibilities to break generational beliefs and show young men what it means to be a healthy man.

For more information about specific resources, please visit OwnPath.co, an online directory that allows people in Colorado to find behavioral health providers licensed by the state.

Preston Barry is a peer recovery coach with Southern Ute Behavioral Health in Durango.