June 10, 2021

How Mental Health Stigma Affects Men

Show Notes

On this episode, Chuck Gaidica is joined by Dr. William Beecroft, medical director of behavioral health for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and Blue Care Network. Together, they discuss how mental health stigma is affecting men.

In this episode of A Healthier Michigan Podcast, we explore:

  • Common mental health stigmas that are preventing men from seeking help.
  • Ways to approach those with mental health conditions.
  • Symptoms to look for if you think you have a mental health condition.
  • How our genetic makeup and the environment we grow up in affects mental health.
  • What men can do to take care of themselves.

Transcript

Chuck Gaidica:
This is A Healthier Michigan Podcast Episode 82. June is Men’s Health Month, and it also happens to be the month where we celebrate Father’s day. So often we think of health, our first thoughts are exercise, eating better, going to the doctor for a physical, all good stuff. But, our health also includes mental health. Coming up, we discuss how the signs around mental health and the possible stigmas could be affecting men.

Chuck Gaidica:
Welcome to A Healthier Michigan Podcast, the podcast dedicated to navigating how we can improve our health and well-being through small, healthy habits we can all start right now. I’m your host, Chuck Gaidica, and every other week, we’ll sit down with a certified expert to discuss topics that cover fitness nutrition a whole lot more.

Chuck Gaidica:
And on this episode, again, we’re diving deeper into mental health stigma. Men face this all the time as do women, and the impact is really important as we discuss this relative to men, and how oftentimes, I don’t think it’s just, people are critical of us that we oftentimes put off seeking care. With us today is the medical director of Behavioral Health for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and the Blue Care Network, Dr. William Beecroft. Doctor, good to have you back with us.

Dr. William Beecroft:
Good morning and thank you for your time.

Chuck Gaidica:
Well, you’ve got such a rich history. I know you began with your MD studies, and then you completed psychiatry at MSU. You’re board certified in general psychiatry. And you’re also, this is awesome, named a distinguished life fellow of the American Psychiatric Association in 2018. So, if we go back over 40 years of practice, I know you’re going to have a rich history and input for us on this, but here’s some stats I want to share with you and our audience, because these are kind of mind blowing and sets the table for our discussion.

Chuck Gaidica:
According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, men died of suicide almost four times, 3.6, three times more often than women in 2019. That’s just before the pandemic became a thing. Six million men are affected by depression in the United States each year. Over the last year, we’ve seen telehealth services increased. I mean, just take it off by more than 3000%, which on one hand is creating greater accessibility to health care services. And on the other hand, I’m not sure how much impact we’re seeing, but the problem here is that suicide rates continue to grow year after year, despite this ease of access to specialists. So, we’ve got some issues here, and let’s talk about where we’re coming out of this. And we want to focus on the stigma of mental health relative to men in particular.

Dr. William Beecroft:
Yeah, it’s a significant issue, and men have always had a little bit more resistance, if you want to call it that, to be able to seek services for medicine in general, and for behavioral health in particular. I also am boarded in geriatrics, and you look at, there’s a temporal difference too. The younger people in our society really have been able to overcome some of the stigma and be able to seek services better. But, you take the people that have retired, people 55 and above, that in their culture, in their time, and when they were growing up, their education experience, they really didn’t get a sense that you sought services. You just kind of pulled yourself up by your bootstraps and kind of pushed yourself on, and real-men-don’t-cry-type thing.

Dr. William Beecroft:
And it’s like, well, that doesn’t do you any good, because the highest rate of suicide in our whole society is men over 60 years old, that have recently lost a significant other, that have financial difficulties. Their rate of suicide is roughly 60 per a hundred thousand. The average rate of suicide is in the range of 14 per a hundred thousand. So, you can see, dramatically different, and they’re successful the first time. That’s the difference. It is hugely different with men in general when you talk about suicide. The suicide attempts are more serious and they’re more successful than they are in other segments of our population, women in particular.

Chuck Gaidica:
So, in your experience then, if we focus on this difference of age, because you’re saying so much just a couple of minutes here, because this is a very interesting mixture in the same pot, right? You’ve got culture, men’s culture versus women, you’ve got history, you’ve got your age demographics that you’re referencing, and just this fact that perhaps men are not seeking help for depression, anxiety, or not led to maybe like women feel they can. Could part of this also be that we as men don’t seem to have the kind of tribe that women have? You know what I mean? I’ve always kidded my wife, she can walk into the ladies room at a restaurant and walk out with three new friends. It just happens. And for us, for me, I’ll just say me, I don’t really have that affinity for making new friends out of nowhere. They tend to have more of a support system. Ladies do oftentimes. Am I wrong?

Dr. William Beecroft:
No, you’re not wrong. In general, men tend to be more solitary. They tend to be more focused. They tend to be more driven, more competitive. And I’m using the middle of the bell-shaped graph. There’s always people on both ends of the spectrum, but when you get into the 80% of the demographic, that’s what you’re looking at. And that focus can be a good thing and it can be a bad thing. They can be very more detailed on specific issues. They can be more able to achieve a task. But you look at women, they have more of a broad spectrum of the world and can be able to see a lot of different things and, like you’re saying, be able to develop those relationships. It’s really important if you look developmentally, that women do have that ability to be able to talk to each other, be able to share parenting skills, artistic skills, those sorts of things.

Dr. William Beecroft:
Not saying men aren’t artists, there are very prolific artists that have been men too, but it’s that issue of the general group. They want to be felt as being strong. They want to be able to not have a weakness, especially in the eyes of other men, so they don’t say that they’ve got a difficulty. They don’t really understand even some of the things themselves, because it’s been such a denied outlet for them in our society and our culture. And that’s where the younger people especially have a leg up on in learning this, that it’s okay to be able to do these things. That’s really encouraging to see that that’s happening. But even with our younger people, you talk about suicide rate, the suicide rate is just going up pretty dramatically, especially through the COVID era here. And I think some of that is the isolation that goes along with COVID.

Chuck Gaidica:
What’s so sad about this is whether you’re 60 or you’re 36, it’s obviously a different demographic, but there’s so much life ahead of a person, even at age 60. If you look at the average lifespan, you’ve got to, well, certainly, you could have a whole new career for 25, 30 years based on lifespan now. That’s the sad part of this, is that people are finding a lack of, how can I put it? Maybe they’re not seeing the hope in living and then reaching out for help to get them just to swing from one rung to the next, just someone to help them get there. And I suppose that’s what the stigma holds them back from, right? Many different stigmas.

Dr. William Beecroft:
It does. Speaking to that directly, it is up close and personal for me, because I had 40 years, as you’ve said, in the world of treating people. I’ve gone through this with an awful lot of people. I can’t even count the numbers, but it’s in the hundreds, of people that have come to me, suicidal, attempted suicide and did not succeed, came very close. All of these things. And after treating them, working with them, six months or a year later, almost I can never remember a case that said, “Doc, I wish you hadn’t done that.” They’re always thankful of saying, “I’m glad you helped me,” and it is dramatically different.

Dr. William Beecroft:
Suicide is a permanent solution for a temporary problem. And all of our problems, no matter how bad they are are, in general, temporary. You bring it in perspective of looking at 60 years or 30 years of continued existence in this world. When you have something that’s bad for two or three years or five years or 10 years, that’s kind of temporary when you look at it. You have to give it a different perspective. So, it really is worth working through to be able to have that opportunity, to be able to have potential for your future. People always have potential. There’s always something that we can do that will give us pleasure, that give us something, an experience to live for. Even though we don’t know it now, there’s always something around the corner. That’s the amazing thing about this life.

Chuck Gaidica:
And often as friends, as relatives, that could be part of our role. Maybe that’s the very basis of it, and that’s all we can do, is offer hope to someone, to walk alongside them as an encourager, because I’m not you, I don’t have your skills. I don’t have your 40 years of practice. But as an encourager, having had somebody very close to me in my family suffer a lifetime of depression and anxiety, it’s a very tough thing to deal with. And most of us are a little flummoxed as to how to do it.

Dr. William Beecroft:
Oh, absolutely. But, it’s not something you’re going to catch. It’s not something that’s going to somehow take you down the same path to be able to be that support person, to be there and walk that life with the individual that you’re trying to help. Those are the important things. And that can be enough to be able to tip the balance in the positive direction. And that’s really, really important to do. Most people shy away, because they don’t know how to deal with it. Just being there is how to deal with it. That’s really important.

Chuck Gaidica:
And maybe not trying to be the fixer, right? Because, sometimes, that backfires, because you try to… I’m a fixer. I know I am. I mean, my kids know if they need to fix the plumbing, call dad. I’ll be there in two minutes and we’ll figure it out. That’s my nature as I know I’m not alone. And so, sometimes, that doesn’t work. You can’t fix everything.

Dr. William Beecroft:
Yeah, and just being in the moment. Not saying, I said this before, “Pull yourself up by your bootstraps,” or “Buck up. It’ll be okay. Everything will be wonderful.” It’s like, “No, it’s not. It really hurts right now.” And just being able to be in the moment with that individual and walk through that with them, experience some of the pain. It may move you to tears. It may move you to anger, frustration. Whatever the feeling is that comes up with you, it’s going to be helpful for the two of you or multiples of you to be able to get moving forward in a positive direction. Don’t run away from it. To be a support person is really an important part of our lives and something you can be proud of at the other end when things come out successful.

Chuck Gaidica:
Yeah, good advice from someone who’s seen that process, as you mentioned, with hundreds of different people. And as we come back to this notion of stigma, and I know there are various types of stigma, I want to just couch this initially. When we use the phrase “mental health,” to me, and you’ve used behavioral health, mental health, I’ve heard mental wellness, when you use the word “mental” in a statement or phrase, right away to me that implies there could be a stigma attached to that. Maybe it’s not something I want to discuss. It’s not like a bunion, or I fell and I tripped and broke my wrist. It’s a different kind of thing. Is that a stigma all by itself, the title that we use for this issue?

Dr. William Beecroft:
Yes and no. It depends on the context in which we use the terms. Behavioral health is more of an umbrella term that we use to describe mental health, which is the descriptor of serious mental illness. Things like severe major depression, schizophrenia, bipolar illness, severe personality disorders. Differentiating it from substance use disorder, which is another behavioral health condition, but it is a different category. It’s the inappropriate use of substances other than medicinal purposes. So, using it in that kind of more academic context is really very helpful to be able to discriminate what you’re actually trying to talk about and fix. Whereas, if it’s used, “Oh, you’re just mental,” or “You’re just crazy,” those are really pejorative uses of the term, and it’s all in the intonation, isn’t it? It’s all in the context of how that’s being done.

Dr. William Beecroft:
To try to label someone is the stigma part. Whereas, if you’re trying to identify, characterize, and then be able to affect some kind of positive outcome, that’s a different use of the term. And I think it’s really important to be able to understand that use of it, is the important, positive effect that it can have on an individual. It’s the other stuff, it’s the stuff that people do without thinking about it. Old terms like lunacy. “Oh, you’re just a lunatic.” That doesn’t help, that doesn’t identify the issues that are going on. That’s just denigrating the other individual in the conversation or in the communication that you’re trying to present.

Chuck Gaidica:
And what other stigmas could you reference that either point directly to genetics or history or culture? What else could you talk about that’s a stigma that we should be on the lookout for and that we also need to be mindful of?

Dr. William Beecroft:
Well, you talk about genetics, there’s a couple of different ways of doing things. Our genetics are pretty fixed. We have some techniques that we can change things now, but it’s very early on and it’s for disease management, that sort of thing. So, in effect, we can’t change our genetics, but there’s a way that our genetic makeup is expressed, and that’s called our phenotype or our style of how all of those multiple different genes mixed together, and the ultimate end point of how we present ourselves. And that can be the macho guy or it can be a very sensitive person. It can be anywhere in between all of those different kind of end points.

Dr. William Beecroft:
And with that, then you have the effect of the environment that we grow up in, our culture that we have. There are certain cultures that have different techniques of how to be able to express behavioral health or mental health issues, and look at it either from a religious standpoint or a spiritual standpoint, or mystery. We know a lot about this. We know a lot about the science, but we still don’t know everything about why certain disorders occur and what the outcomes are with them. All of those things kind of blend into making us who we are and what we have. But, I think the ultimate issue is, just like Clint Eastwood said in The Gauntlet. “A man has got to know his limitations,” and it’s not limitations in the sense of that we’re limited. It’s we have to know ourselves, and we have to know our strengths in addition to our limitations. And with that, that’s really an important piece to take away.

Dr. William Beecroft:
Things that we can do for ourselves would be basic taking care of yourself. Men don’t go to the doctor very frequently. They deny that they have a problem until it’s really severe. Well, do some things like walking, biking, swimming, running, whatever the exercises you want to do. And we do know that that helps your mood. We do know that if you exercise 30 minutes to 40 minutes, three to five times a week, it improves your cardiovascular status, your mental state, your thinking, your concentration ability. Being able to get adequate sleep. Don’t drink too much. Don’t smoke too much. Don’t use too much cannabis. All of these things are really important to be able to help us be optimizing ourselves.

Dr. William Beecroft:
And when you do have symptoms that we’ve tried to get out in front of populations about depression, if you have like a depressed mood or a sad mood two weeks in a row, 90% of the time, loss of interest in pleasurable activities, loss of any kind of emotional creativity that you used to have, not wanting to be social with people, not wanting to go out with friends, nothing is pleasurable for you anymore, you really should be talking to a doc. This is not something you can just wish away, because those are symptoms really indicative that you likely have a major depressive episode. And men tend to have less than women do, as far as frequency.

Dr. William Beecroft:
But as you pointed out, 6 million people in the United States have, what, 330 million people, have depression each year. That’s a point prevalence. You’d look at lifetime prevalence, it’s about 10%. That’s pretty substantial when you look at it from that perspective. And it can really derail you for any 18 months to a couple of years, sometimes, for the rest of a person’s life, if you get into that depressed state and don’t get it effectively treated. And we can do that now.

Dr. William Beecroft:
Other things like bipolar illness, learning the signs of depression, we’ve already talked about that, but mania, where you go days without sleep, starting multiple projects but never finishing them, spending money that you don’t have, buying two or three cars. Maybe that would be a very big manic episode. These kinds of things are signs that you have to recognize. Now, when you’re doing that, you’re not thinking about, “Well, I should go to the doctor because I’m feeling too good,” but ultimately is you probably need to get the idea, “I’m feeling a little too good here. This is probably not right.”

Chuck Gaidica:
And from that perspective, being the friend or the relative who sees these manic swings, and oftentimes, they are to the upside, right? Doing too much, not sleeping. And you also don’t know how to… It’s one thing if somebody is having a bad time. When somebody is having the swing in the other direction, you can peek in the window from the outside and think, “Well, they’re just having a good life.” It just happens to be multiple days or weeks. It’s extended itself, but you don’t really think of that as being a potential issue for somebody.

Dr. William Beecroft:
Exactly. Until they get into real trouble.

Chuck Gaidica:
There is something else that I think pops up and we’ve had a major life event with the pandemic, but oftentimes, the inputs that can trigger this for men and women are not really from the inside out. They can be life events from the outside in. “I lost both of my parents within four and a half months.” That can trigger something. You could have an accident, you could lose a spouse, you can go through a divorce at no fault of your own perhaps, right? There could be all of these inputs that come from the outside in, and that helps to make you buckle at your knees, right?

Dr. William Beecroft:
Oh, absolutely. And being able to recognize that when you’re entering into a phase of life like that, that there’s going to be some consequences. That for a couple of weeks you can kind of deny it and try to sail through, but ultimately, you have to, a bell has to ring someplace and say, “I need some help here.” And there are people that are willing and able to be able to help you through this and get on with your life, and to be able to learn from the experience. We are an experiential species, that we take everything and we remember it, and we then modify our reactions in the future based on our past. So, being able to learn from those experiences not only helps you as the individual, but if you have children or relatives, nieces, nephews, others, other younger people, to be able to learn how to be able to take care of oneself, that it’s okay to be able to do that.

Dr. William Beecroft:
And as a parent, that really is important for you to be able to show that as an example. That, “Yes, I can go and see a psychiatrist or a therapist,” or a spiritual advisor if that’s the person you’re using for this type of intervention. Those are things that are really important to teach our kids, because then they know how to be able to do that for themselves. Otherwise, they’re struggling. And again, I really applaud our younger people, because they have gotten some of that, that it’s okay to seek these kinds of services, whether that’s been by the example or whether it’s been through the education process or our social media, and social world culture that we live in now has made that more okay and accessible.

Dr. William Beecroft:
We have a lot of celebrities that are coming out and saying, “Hey, look, I have bipolar illness.” “I have depression or depressive disorder and got ECT.” And you look at Morley Safer. He was a big advocate of that and really made a huge difference in the past, to be able to help people understand that even these treatments that were felt to be, “Oh, that’s really bad,” he’s like, “No, they’re very effective treatments and they get people better,” and he had a very successful life. So, you kind of look at it from that perspective, that it’s no mystery anymore. As I say, we don’t know everything, but we know a lot to be able to help people get better and being able to reach out. You’ve got hands that are willing to grab your hand on the other side.

Chuck Gaidica:
And you’ve mentioned something that’s important to a lot of us who are of an age where we have, I’ve got five millennial kids. Right now, I’ve got grandkids and I don’t consider myself an old guy, but there is such a thing as reverse mentoring. I can look at my kids for something, we all can, and I think it’s more than anecdotal, as you’re pointing out, that the stigmas are kind of falling by the wayside when it comes to, “Hey dad, I’ve got anxiety, but I’m talking to someone.” It just becomes part of conversation. And to be fair, I think something has changed. I really do. I think something’s changed, and maybe we can learn, more than just asking our kids and young people how to help us figure out Siri. We can say, “Thumbs up. You’re doing something right and we can learn from you now,” which is awesome.

Dr. William Beecroft:
And rather than say, “Oh, what are you doing at for? You don’t need to see a shrink,” say, “Hmm, well, that sounds good.” Those kinds of things. If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. We learned that when we’re really little kids. So, as an adult or an older adult, as I am also, it’s like, maybe you just don’t say a whole lot and keep it to yourself and listen to what others are telling you, and then think about it a little bit before you open your mouth. That can be really helpful too. It’s a change. It’s really hard to change, especially those things that are ingrained in our heads when we’re younger through our generations. To be able to modify and change those, that’s the important piece of being a parent.

Chuck Gaidica:
In previous episodes, we’ve talked about how mental health conditions can be caused by a chemical imbalance. This could be something that’s not an input from outside, the outside world. It really is something that’s out of balance within you, that if you were to seek professional help, this can be fixed. Talk about this idea of what goes on in the brain, in the body, that can cause these imbalances that lead to something you think you can’t get a handle on, but indeed, if you sought the right help, you could.

Dr. William Beecroft:
Mostly, it’s your genetics, and that is where it really comes back to genetics. It is influenced by environment. A person with a genetic makeup of severe major depression in their family and their family history, had they not had any kind of environmental change, which is unlikely in our world, but had they not had any environmental influence, could sail through life and never get depressed. But, on the other hand, the majority of people that have those severe risk factors for depression’s sake, and we’ll just kind of focus on depression for the moment because that’s the most common one. We know that it is an imbalance of two different chemicals, serotonin and norepinephrine, primarily serotonin, in areas of the brain. They’re really, really tiny areas of the brain, so these are very, very small amounts of chemical differences from people that don’t have depression, but there’s enough difference that it sets off a cascade of all of those symptoms.

Dr. William Beecroft:
We talked about depressed mood, decreased interest, decreased energy, appetite change, up or down, weight gain or loss, sleep disturbance. All of these kinds of things are symptoms of depression. And we do know that psychotherapy is very effective in being able to modify those chemicals in the brain. If that’s not effective, then use of medications. We have some very good cleaner medications with minimal side effects anymore that are very effective in this treatment. If they don’t work, then using some combinations of the two. There’s other, what are called neuromodulation strategies. ECT, electroconvulsive therapy is one. That’s not the one you go to first, but there’s one called transcranial magnetic stimulation. It’s like a dentist chair. You go into an office, you have the treatment, and you go to work or you go back home. You don’t have any headache or side effects from that except, rarely, some people can have headaches from the noise that it makes. But other than that, there’s no physiologic change that way, except for in the positive side of improving the mood.

Dr. William Beecroft:
And now, we have a really effective medication for people that have a, what’s called a refractory depressive disorder, called the esketamine. We’ve all heard of ketamine, and it’s an animal tranquilizer, but the variation of it, cleaned-up version of it, esketamine, is an FDA-approved drug for people with severe refractory depression and suicidal ideation. And it works within 24 to 48 hours. You have to have a continuing treatment of it, but it is a miraculous treatment. And when it works, it works very, very well. This is a kind of the miracle that has not been advertised very much, but it is extremely important treatment that people can get and almost immediate results. That is the really important thing to take away.

Dr. William Beecroft:
Now, it’s not permanent immediate results. You have to have continued treatment afterwards to maintain that effect. And the treatment is for about four to six weeks to be able to get the full benefit of it. And then, you go into maintenance treatment with other interventions. But, it is something that is really miraculous to see. And in my career, I could have used an awful lot of this stuff over the years.

Chuck Gaidica:
Yeah, I can just hear you light up when you’re talking about it. It seems like it’s something that you’ve witnessed now so miraculous that you do wish you had it years ago.

Dr. William Beecroft:
Well, this is like penicillin in the late thirties.

Chuck Gaidica:
Come on, really? Wow.

Dr. William Beecroft:
It is that important to keeping people alive, saving lives, and really turning things around. This is a major improvement.

Chuck Gaidica:
And I hope that people that are hearing this realize that that is hope all by itself, that science is leading us to even more hope. Right?

Dr. William Beecroft:
Absolutely.

Chuck Gaidica:
Because, hope, even using the word “hope,” it just sounds like something that’s ethereal. It’s just out there and it’s hard to grab onto, and some days I have it and some days I don’t, and here you are saying, man, there’s this new thing. Would it be too much to call it a wonder drug?

Dr. William Beecroft:
No, I think it is truly a wonder drug. In my career, it’s a wonder drug.

Chuck Gaidica:
Well, what’s also not lost on me is the natural part of what we’re talking about. So, here we are, this episode is hitting on June 10th, so we are not sure where everybody is listening to it. But, the month of June, we mentioned, is Men’s Health Month, Father’s day will be celebrated. We’re coming out of the pandemic, and so we’ve got fresh air, we’ve got warmer temperatures. We hope that you all stick together in the same month and we can get outdoors more. There is a natural thing you’ve already touched on for us to move into a better frame of mind. Just by getting outdoors or walking amongst the trees at the state park, or whatever it is for you, jogging, we can use some of those things, which are kind of free most of the time.

Dr. William Beecroft:
Yeah, and taking good care of yourself. Being able to use things in moderation. If you’re using coffee or caffeinated beverages, you’re really leveraging your energy for the next few hours afterwards, you have to pay it back somewhere. So, being able to moderate your caffeine intake. Sleep adequately. People need between six and nine hours of sleep, depends on you as an individual, but really take care of that kind of piece of things. Do the basic stuff, and then being able to get the exercise in like you’re talking about. Getting outside, getting the adequate sunshine, being able to do the physical moving that we’re designed as humans to do. We’re designed to move. And even if you have an inability, say, you’re paralyzed and those sorts of things, you can still use your upper body. You can still use your body to be able to move, to be able to get that beneficial effect, release of those internal hormones that we have, internal chemicals. And that’s what you’re doing really, is you’re releasing that adrenaline when you’re running. Those kinds of chemicals are being released.

Dr. William Beecroft:
All of those things are really important for us to be able to do. Eat adequately. You don’t need a whole lot of high calorie, sugar-laden foods. Because, again, you’re mortgaging your energy sources in the future. You get that donut or you get that 300-calorie sugar load, and yeah, you feel good for about 90 minutes or so, but then you had a slump, your insulin kicks in and your blood sugars go down and you get weak, you get tired, fatigued. So, being able to use high-protein foods, being able to eat adequately through the day that you’re not eating more calories than you need or less. Now, clearly there’re cultural aspects, there’re socioeconomic aspects that go along with that, they’re always there, but even in that, try to do the best we possibly can as individuals.

Chuck Gaidica:
Yeah, and self care to me, and I know that this is something you’ve talked about and we maybe haven’t touched on it, but being hopeful is one thing, and also ancient wisdom teaches us to be patient. It’s a virtue. And at least, for me, and I know for a lot of Americans, we’re not patient. I need answers like tomorrow. And for many of us, that takes a minute for us to get the answer. And so, patients can lead to frustration all by itself when it comes to, “Well, I’m feeling off or I’m feeling depressed and it’s not going away and I can’t pray it away.” And so, I think being patient and just giving ourselves some grace is sometimes a good idea too, huh?

Dr. William Beecroft:
Yeah, we have natural cycles, and everybody knows that they have periods of time, and that they tend to be, more weeks to months even, where you feel really high in the sense of energetic for two or three weeks. And then, you kind of slumped down again and you’re not quite as creative as you used to be, but those kinds of modulate for most people between some normal parameters. It’s when it gets out of hand that you’re in trouble and you need some help. But, you’re absolutely right. To be able to look at what our ebb and flow is and to be patient with that, recognizing that, “Yeah, okay. It’s going to get better. I’m going to start, keep on doing the same things that I usually do to take care of myself,” and you’ll kind of slip back out of it and back into a normal swing of things.

Chuck Gaidica:
Well, as we start to wrap things up here, let’s give everybody a takeaway. And I think maybe an important one for men this month, as we celebrate men’s health month, would be for ourselves and also for our spouses or others that are looking in on us. When men should seek out help for their mental health? What are some of the signs again that we should maybe go seek some help?

Dr. William Beecroft:
Well, for depression, it would be having a depressed mood or sad mood 90% of the time for two weeks in a row. That you’re having a weight gain of 5%, 10% of your body weight up or down in that same kind of two-week timeframe. Sleep is disturbed, either having too much sleep or usually too little sleep, difficulty falling asleep/staying asleep, waking up early, fragmented sleep, that kind of thing. Decreased pleasure. Just nothing is fun anymore. Nothing feels good anymore for a two, three-week period of time. Those are really symptoms that mother nature’s knocking on your door saying, hey, this isn’t right. You need to get help.

Chuck Gaidica:
Yeah, good advice, and resources for us? I know in your position, you can lead us to so many different places, but where should we look first for help?

Dr. William Beecroft:
Start with your primary care doctor. That’s going to be really the first place to go. If you don’t have one, if you’re having suicidal thinking, the National Suicide Hotline might be very helpful. It’s actually called National Suicide Lifeline now. Michigan has a similar lifeline that they’ve just made available for our population. Those kinds of things would be really helpful if you have severe suicidal thoughts that life’s not worth living. But, beyond that, looking at if you have Blue Cross Blue Shield insurance on the back of your card, there’s a phone number there that you can call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to be able to get help.

Dr. William Beecroft:
And as far as getting into a therapist or a higher level of care, if you need that, most insurance plans have the same sorts of things. So, being able to use those resources, but I think the first thing would be is contacting your primary care doctor if you have one. If you don’t, be able to go to an urgent care. Many times, they can direct you or contact your local community mental health system. Even if you have insurance, the community mental health system will be able to assist you in being able to understand the resources in your community that may be available to you.

Chuck Gaidica:
Yeah, really good advice. Well, doctor, thank you so much for your time today. I think this has been a great discussion for all of us, men and women, but thanks for everything today.

Dr. William Beecroft:
Oh, you’re welcome. Thanks for having me.

Chuck Gaidica:
Oh, sure thing. Dr. William Beecroft, who is the medical director of Behavioral Health for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and the Blue Care Network. Glad he was with us today and we’re glad you were here. Thanks for listening to A Healthier Michigan Podcast. It’s brought to you by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. If you’re interested in checking out other issues and content on behavioral health, check out the link in our episode page. And if you like our show, you want to know more, you can go online. Here’s the web address for you. It’s ahealthiermichigan.org/podcast. You can leave reviews or ratings on Apple Podcast or Stitcher. You can take us with you on your healthful walk. You can find lots of episodes with great content, including this one. You can get all the new episodes as well on your smartphone or tablet. Be sure to subscribe to us. You can do that on Apple Podcast, Spotify, or your favorite podcast app. I’m Chuck Gaidica. Stay well.