The recent Tokyo Olympics seem to have been a catalyst for opening the discussion regarding mental health. From Noah Lyles to Simone Biles, these elite athletes addressed their mental health concerns on the world’s stage. Arguably this struggle is the deepest in men who have been told they have to “man up” or “power through.” No wonder a man is four times as like to die by suicide than a woman. Why?
Much-honored Olympic medal–winning swimmer Michael Phelps opened up on Twitter two years ago, saying, “I struggled with anxiety and depression and questioned whether or not I wanted to be alive… I decided to reach out and ask for the help of a licensed therapist. This decision ultimately helped save my life.” Prince Harry continues the dialogue, telling Forbes magazine that, after the death of his mother Princess Diana, “I had grief that I had never processed, and it started to need to be to dealt with.”
This little crack in men’s mental health discussions needs to be opened wider, making it OK for men to talk about their struggles, both personal and professional, and how they are feeling—and for that to be acknowledged as a sign of strength.
“Men don’t want to go to the pharmacy and pick up an antidepressant because they are afraid they will be judged,” writes Nicole Greene, deputy director of the Office on Women’s Health, in a guest column for Women’s Health magazine titled “Why We Need to Talk About Men’s Mental Health.” “They don’t want to go to a therapist because they don’t want to share with a stranger.”
Two Colorado Springs entrepreneurs can relate both having suffered from mental health issues for several years, causing one to almost lose his marriage and the other to suffer from severe anxiety for almost a decade. Taylor Draper is the founder of Inherent, a downtown custom menswear store with a mission of not just making men look good, but feel good as well. Draper has always had an eye for fashion with this passion stemming from his love of graphic design when he was just a kid.
Little did he know that his passion would carry him through the biggest hardship of his life. “About four years ago,” he says, “my wife and I were about at the end of our marriage, but we made a last effort to save it and went into therapy three times a week. We decided that, if we were going to make the marriage work, we had to put all we had into it. Up until that point, as a man, I never really talked about my feelings and was told to ‘man up’ when wanting to express them. Any time I went to therapy with my wife, I would put on a suit and treat the session like I was going to work, giving me the confidence to talk about my feelings.”
Clothing really helped Draper to open up about himself, and he felt that a lot of men could benefit from this confidence builder. He sold his two businesses and started INHERENT initially as an online store. INHERENT helps men build a fully functional, versatile wardrobe that awakens their inherent inner confidence and authentic self-expression. Pairing the luxury of a personal tailor with impeccable service and the convenience of a digital concierge, the company offers online appointment bookings as well as home, office, or web-based custom fittings.
Three weeks after the store launched, Draper says, “Janie Bryant, the costume designer on Mad Men, reached out and said she really liked what we were doing with mental health and loved that my last name was Draper [like the main character on her show] and wanted to help.” She soon became a minority partner in the company. “We also launched our own line of elegant suits called Bryant-Draper,” he adds. “Andrew Perkett came on in August 2020, and we created a nonprofit arm (Foundation By INHERENT) with the mission of fashion for a purpose.”
The INHERENT Foundation is where Perkett comes in as he, himself, was suffering from anxiety when he joined the organization in 2020. “I finally realized that anxiety has controlled me for the last 10 years of my life,” Perkett says, “and I finally got some help. I felt that I couldn’t talk to anyone as I’d always believed that in order to be a man, I was expected to just suck it up. This was what Taylor and I wanted to bring to other men. We formed the INHERENT Foundation to bridge the gap between the 90% of guys who feel that they can’t talk about their feelings or reach out for help if they are overwhelmed. We have actually created a space, called Huddles, which happens once a month at no charge to attendees, where men can smoke cigars, play poker, and feel like they are in a safe space. When someone asks, ‘how are you?’ you have to be real and tell the truth.”
Huddles has an open-door policy and is held once a month at the store. Men who attend the evening frequently end up advocating for other men in their lives.
INHERENT is flipping the whole concept of what it means for a man to be strong. Perhaps it will take more than a “huddle,” but as struggles with mental health issues in men of all ages come more to the forefront and men feel safer starting that conversation and seeking help for mental issues, will we be able to break the decades-old stigma associated with “being a man”? Only time will tell.