Shea Emry, Canadian football star, is speaking out about men’s mental health. He speaks to his own battle with depression and the relief of stepping out from behind the mask:
“Like so many of us, I lived my childhood mastering the art of masking my feelings. I thought this survival mechanism was necessary for me to fit in to the only frame of masculinity that I knew, one that frowns on emotional exposure.
Embracing my emotive self and sharing my personal story liberated me and I became a man who could find strength in vulnerability. As Brené Brown writes in her book Daring Greatly, Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity.
Before I started to embrace vulnerability and openness, I lived a guarded life. I took few risks, building armour around my soul, hindering me from experiencing the feelings Brené Brown describes. I didn’t even know what living freely was.
Men’s mental health issues continue to thrive behind society’s masks. I’m the perfect example: a professional football player, the mentally tough, ‘alpha-male’ type. Until I ripped off the mask this was all I—and perhaps others—allowed me to be. Social-cultural expectations surrounding masculinity are why such a singular-belief system can even occur in a young man’s mind. The mask that many men feel we need to put on before we walk out the door each morning perpetuates a society of men and boys who have bought into a culture that does not value vulnerability, a trait we have feminized.
Men should not have to battle societal and cultural parameters while tending to the issues in their lives. Life can be hard enough. We do not need our boys—who become men—to waste their lives worrying about which mask to hide behind.”