Outspoken Observations: A co-founder's personal experience with mental health

I think and talk a lot about mental health. I believe the discussion is important, and admitting my own battles with anxiety has eased the plight for a lot of my friends.  There is value in feeling like you’re not alone in your struggles.  And I’m grateful that organizations like Movember are putting a spotlight on the benefits of sharing your feelings, and putting programs in place to help people open up - because it isn’t always easy.  But it seems like a great place to start.

For most of my life, I have suffered with an anxiety disorder surrounding communication. For instance, if a friend didn’t respond to a text or email in what I considered to be an expedient manner, my go to thought would be “I did something to make them not like me” or “that person is angry with me.” And I deeply believed that to be true. My mind would start shuffling through possible scenarios where I had wronged said person. “Well maybe it was because I spilled wine on her couch” or “maybe she doesn’t want to be my friend because I got too drunk at that party.”  This would go on for hours. What had I done to make myself so unlikeable that someone could just throw me to the wayside? What mistake had I made to make myself so discardable? And then they would respond to my text. I’d be relieved.  And that’s how I lived and interacted with the world. I terrorized myself.  

I thought this was normal. I thought it was normal that I had set a standard on communication response time and that any one who didn’t adhere to such standard was in the wrong, and I would lash out. Then finally, people had a logical reason to not want to be around me. It wasn’t because I spilled wine on their couch or got too drunk at whatever party, it was because I made it impossible to please me. I was a walking and talking self-fulfilling prophecy. And the question that I finally had to ask myself was:  why?  

After some time spent in therapy, I finally found an answer: I hated myself. My self-worth was low. And the reason why I was doubting my relationships was because I truly believed that I wasn’t worthy of friendship and love.  

I’m lucky, in that, I’m educated and I have a support system. I have the wherewith-all to research my symptoms and strategize a plan to get better. And I have the resources to execute that plan. I also have the desire for self-improvement. Think about how rare that combination is. If any piece of that puzzle was missing, I would never get the chance to be happy.    

I’m no longer a walking, talking self-fulfilling prophecy. I’m walking, talking proof that speaking openly about your feelings is a solution to having a healthy mind.  

During these last two weeks of November, it’s important to keep conversations like this top of mind. We love working with organizations like Movember and their co-founder Adam Garone who recognize the importance of being vulnerable with one another, and help us all to feel a little less alone, in part with their month-long (and year round) campaign in support of men’s health.  Adam, as well as General Donald Bolduc, are both strong proponents in advocating for the discussion of mental health issues, including suicide prevention and post-traumatic stress (PTS). We continue to support them in getting their messages out to our event hosts for programming ideas at their next event. Building community and supporting a healthy mind makes any organization that much stronger. Always here to talk on or offline about this subject that is especially near and dear to me.

Bust it,


Taboo Talks: Mental Health

In this monthly series, we invite our speakers to discuss their points of view and/or expertise on a taboo topic to offer up an opportunity for conversations on very much relevant, but avoided subjects. Although the subject matter at hand may be considered taboo for some, there are important messages and viewpoints to engage upon for future understanding and learning.

For our first Taboo Talk, we asked a selection of speakers for their diverse insights into an, otherwise, avoided topic to which we can all relate—Men's Mental Health.

Adam Garone {Co-founder of Movember}:

“When it comes to the big issues in life, too often men don’t talk about what’s going, they bottle things up, put on a mask and tough it out in isolation. This is having a tragic impact on the mental health of our society and the rates of suicide. As men, we need to have the courage to talk with our friends about the big stuff. We also need to listen very carefully because if you pay close attention, you might hear a voice or two that needs to be listened to very, very closely. Someone might need your help.”

Amy Jo Martin {Social media expert, studying the correlation between serotonin deficiencies and technology effects on human behavior}:

"When it comes to social media, we are currently in the middle of the largest social experiment imaginable. More and more, our society is encouraging and celebrating people sharing their highlight reels on social media versus expressing who they are in real life. This highlight reel versus real life phenomenon impacts our mental health greatly. There's a large emphasis around the pressure women feel due to the unrealistic expectations that social media encourages but we often forget that men are just as equally impacted."

Kenny Zimlinghaus {Comedian}

"Our mental health, as men, shouldn't be something we ignore and push away. It's a part of us and should be let in and discussed. The dark days I've had have made me who I am. Or at the very least, they helped me see who I was all along. And yeah, I cry at movies. I cry at books. I've cried at spray paint. I cry chopping onions then run to my family and pretend I'm crying about spray paint. As a guy, I've learned to let crying happen. It still doesn't change the fact that if you cut me off while driving, I'll want to bust your windshield and wrap it around your neck like a scarf."

Ned Hallowell {Child/adult psychiatrist and learning differences expert}

"Friendship is life's natural antidote to the pain that all life contains. And you want to teach children this lesson early on, that connection, which is what friendship is all about, is this free, abundant solvent that takes away the pain. And not only takes away the pain, provides the joy. So it is in connection that you solve your problems, but also that you celebrate what's good. Show them this, because the beauty of it is it's free, it's infinite in supply and you just need to teach them to get in the habit of connecting. When they're sad, when they're happy, whenever. Yates had a great line, 'Think where man's glory most begins and ends, and say my glory was, I had such friends.'" [excerpted from video]

Check out Adam Garone's LinkedIn piece on this hidden health crisis and consider how you may help tackle this important issue for those men in your professional and personal life.

Go to weneedtotalk.movember.com for more information on how to start potentially life-saving conversations and to find 24-hour crisis support if you need it.

Candid Conversations: Adam Garone

For our first of the monthly Candid Conversations series, we asked Movember co-founder Adam Garone to answers some questions about what he's Outspoken about and how that translates to his keynote speeches.

OA: What are you Outspoken about?
AG: Leadership, entrepreneurship, and men's health
OA: How has your recent work [or campaigns with Movember] transformed the focus of your content when delivering a speech?
AG: I think more and more about [my] legacy. When you're 90 years old sitting in a chair looking back on your life, what will you be most proud of? What did you create that had an impact? What will by your legacy?
OA: How do speaking events help your organization’s growth?
AG: One of the starting aims of Movember back in 2004 was to inspire a new generation of social entrepreneurs. Back then, no one except the uber rich started a charity. Now it's common and having an amazing impact. In my speeches, I aim to inspire others to think big, create something that matters, and make this world a happier, healthier, safer place.

OA: What would you like to see happen more often at events to engage with the audience?
AG: Being present and engaged during the talk is key. It's tough when everyone has their heads down on their devices. I vibe off the audience which creates a better atmosphere for learning and dialogue. Let's save the tweets and posts until after the talk.
OA: What has been one of the most fulfilling audience experiences at speaking events?

AG: Recently, I spoke at Melbourne Business School in Australia on workplace culture and the impact of happiness on profits, productivity and creativity. There were 80 people in the room. I set up the conversation as a 20 minute talk with the next hour to jam on different ideas and experiences. The conversation just flowed. The energy was amazing because we were living the topic—we were happy and, because of that, the creativity flowed.

OA: How can people become more involved with your organization?
AG: Men are still dying too young. We need your support to grow a moustache, take the move challenge or host a fundraising event at Movember.com.

OA: If you could hear someone give a speech alive or dead, who would it be and why?
AG: Lady Diana because she broke the rules and changed the world.

Grow a mo, save a bro... Let's talk men's health

This month, we’re all about men’s health. In honor of Movember and Adam Garone, we want to talk about the topics men avoid—checking for testicular cancer in the shower, suicidal thoughts, scheduling a prostate exam.

In particular, we want to share more about Adam. Adam recently left his role as CEO of the Movember Foundation, as he begins to focus on creating and building new fundraising products and becomes the chief advocate for men’s health.

Adam is particularly interested in combating the suicide rates that plague men at a younger age. Earlier this year, he wrote a piece for Huffington Post and created a Facebook campaign for #itsokaytotalk to encourage men to join the conversation. Adam has had mates succumb to mental health issues and suicide, and it’s one of his main goals to engage in meaningful conversation to stop this problem with men around the world.

As women, we may get annoyed with the scruff they're growing, but we’re proud of the ribbon they wear on their upper lips in the name of men’s health. Outspoken will feature multiple blog posts, social media updates, and more exciting things regarding men’s health this month. We hope it’ll lead to thoughtful conversation and even save some lives.