“I’d rather my mate cry on my shoulder than be at his funeral next week.”
When UFC lightweight Paddy Pimblett won a second-round submission over Jordan Leavitt in June 2022, nobody in the crowd was expecting anything profound from him in the post-fight interview. He had, after all, just choked out his opponent and then celebrated with a twerk-and-teabag dance he said he learned from playing Call of Duty. After some celebratory remarks about the energy of the audience, however, he dropped a bombshell on the capacity crowd. Paddy revealed that he’d learned of a friend’s suicide just a few hours before that night’s weigh-in and wanted to dedicate the fight to him. He went on with a more general message to Paddy UFC fans, which struck a nerve coming from The Baddie:
“There’s a stigma in this world that men can’t talk. If you’re a man, and you’ve got weight on your shoulders, and you think the only way you can solve it is by killing yourself, please speak to someone. Speak to anyone. . . Let’s get rid of this stigma and men start talking.”
It may seem odd that Paddy Pimblett has suddenly become a voice for men’s mental health, but his personal experience has given him a special insight on the issue. Since going viral with his speech, Paddy has continued to enlighten the public about several matters that rarely get attention and raise awareness of the crisis in men’s mental health.
The Crisis in Men’s Mental Health
Men’s mental health has been neglected for decades because of a general lack of awareness and the social stigma Paddy Pimblett correctly pointed out. Four areas, in particular, have a disproportionate effect on men’s mental health outcomes:
Men and Depression
Depression is a serious mental illness that affects over 8% of American adults, and it’s implicated as a leading cause of suicide for both men and women. Research shows that more than 6 million men in the United States have had a major bout with depression in the last 12 months. More disturbingly, these episodes are far less likely to be recognized for what they are in men than in women. The symptoms of depression in men are likely to be misidentified as anger or indifference, which makes it harder to spot the signs. Men are also generally reluctant to admit having a mental or emotional health issue that requires treatment, which can feel like weakness or dependency.
Men and Addiction
Substance abuse is another leading factor in suicide, and men are vastly more likely than women to fall into heavy or abusive use of both legal and illegal drugs. While abuse of drugs is technically a separate issue from mental health, it’s very common for men suffering from a mental health crisis to develop problematic drinking and drug abuse habits. Addiction specialists speculate that many men use drugs in place of more effective therapies for depression. This ties addiction and related causes of death into depression and the men’s mental health crisis. It’s also common for substance abusers to have a coexisting mental health issue that may contribute to suicide.
Men and Suicide
Men are nearly four times as likely to commit suicide than women, and the methods they choose are highly likely to be violent and hazardous to themselves and others. Nearly 70% of the 46,000 suicides that take place in the United States each year are committed by white males alone, and men aged 25-34 make up a disproportionate share of victims. Older men aged 75 and over are even more likely to commit suicide. Males of all ages and races account for perhaps 80% of the estimated 1.2 million suicide attempts each year.
Men and Therapy
Men are generally resistant to therapy, which is one of the most effective approaches to preventing suicide among American adults. Several factors contribute to this. The first is men’s overall reluctance to admit they have a problem. Men are also frequently misdiagnosed, which makes finding and treating mental health problems more difficult. When men do seek out therapy for depression, anxiety and other suicide-related issues, social stigma frequently limits how effective their treatment will be.
The Cost of Concealing Men’s Mental Health Issues
Many men are also motivated to conceal their struggle with mental illness and substance abuse, as revealing their “weakness” or “problem” can easily result in serious negative consequences for them both personally and professionally. Men who work in emergency services, for example, may find themselves relieved of their regular duty as police officers or firefighters if they seek help for suicidal thoughts or substance abuse. Men with the distorted self-esteem that often comes with depression might also fear their loved ones will pull away from them or feel burdened if they complain about their own mental health. By concealing the very serious warning signs of impending suicide, many men unwittingly cut themselves off from the help they need to recover from what would otherwise be a temporary mental health crisis.
Paddy UFC’s Campaign to Destigmatize Men’s Mental Health Issues
After the death of his friend, Paddy Pimblett has embarked on a crusade to raise awareness of men’s mental health, especially regarding suicide and related issues that have proven particularly hard to treat for men. It’s now routine for Paddy or his interviewer to raise the topic during pre- and post-fight interviews, and the message Paddy has to spread is as simple as it is effective: Talk to someone.
Paddy plans to continue with his activism center to raise awareness about the issues men face. In interviews conducted after his June 2022 fight, Paddy has revealed that many men have reached out to him personally, often via social media, to say they’ve decided to seek professional help for their depression after hearing him speak. On Facebook, the UFC star encourages men undergoing a mental health crisis to call the Suicide Prevention Helpline at 988 or speak with their doctor or another professional.