Mark Farley struggled his first year away at college.
"My bed became my best friend. I rarely left it. I stopped eating. And my mental state continued to deteriorate," he said.
And one night, the depression took over.
"In that moment, I was desperate. I was desperate to get rid of those hurt feelings," Farley admitted.
His suicide attempt failed, and since that moment, he's been focused on healing-and helping
others. Farley founded a chapter of a national mental health awareness group Active Minds at his new school, Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee. The goal is to de-stigmatize mental illness.
"I didn't want to ask for help. I didn't want to be the weak guy," he said.
That is one reason more schools are bringing the help directly to men during outreach programs.
"This allows them to connect with other men students who are dealing with similar struggles. We also run several drop-in workshops every day of the week with titles such as beating depression, beating anxiety," said Dr. Micky Sharma, President, Association for University and College Counseling Center Directors.
And more and more schools are organizing events like "Recess Day of Play," offering board breaking, dog therapy and more.
"It's harder for them to come and express their feelings, so an event like this gives them another way to have fun and to relax and to connect with the counseling center," said psychiatrist Dr. Denise Deschenes.
"They're not really interested in coming in and having that one-on one conversation, so if you're going to reach out to men it's really, really important to think outside the box," added counseling psychologist Dr. Kip Pietrantonio.
And they've seen proof it's working.
"We've seen a 16% increase in the amount of men who are coming into the counseling center, so that's a huge thing," said Pietrantonio.
"This would make me a little more inclined to try it. It really helps being around other people and not being alone," said student and "Recess" attendee Kyle Dixon.
Experts stress making students aware help is available is key. For Farley, these programs offer hope.
"Students figure out very quickly that they aren't alone in their struggle and their fight and if anything it sometimes gives them hope seeing a student who conquered that illness," he said.
Experts say schools are also focused on hiring more male therapists and counselors to help provide the men on campus with someone of the same sex to talk to about their issues.
Links to Florida college and university counseling programs:
- University of Florida
- Florida State University
- University of North Florida
- Florida State College Jacksonville
University of Central Florida
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