As a man in my 40s, I feel many men like myself don't think they can ask for help.

We were raised in an era that taught us crying is a sign of weakness, and no one wants to hear about our problems – these things can reverberate in our ears while we try to navigate the tough times we face. That feeling of not being able to hurt, or to share our hurt, compounds the pain and feeds the stigma that so many ascribe to when it comes to suicide.

A perfect example of why people, men in particular, hide their feelings is what happened with Dallas Cowboys QB Dak Prescott. Here’s a man willing to speak up and share his own struggles during a pandemic that has tested many of us, and he was initially met with ridicule.

If people are attacking the leader of “America’s Team,” how can we expect others to come forward and ask for help? Fortunately, the ridicule was met with louder cries of support. I hope that Prescott’s courage will inspire people in need and teach them to ignore the uninformed and ask for help because it is out there.

Since I started writing this, Dak Prescot suffered a season-ending compound fracture to his ankle. This has reminded me once again that no matter how well someone appears to have it, you never know their true feelings and struggles. I am hopeful that the strength Prescott has shown will carry him through his latest challenge.

In order to break down these barriers, we need to further the conversation about suicide prevention. When we open ourselves up and make ourselves informed about this topic, the byproduct is that we become a better friend; a better spouse; a better parent. That really is the key to prevention: recognizing when yourself or someone close to you needs help, and understanding what actions to take and what things to say in those situations.

The warning signs might sound obvious when you read them in a list, but patterns might not initially seem troublesome when revealed slowly by a friend or loved one:

  • A person talks about feeling trapped or hopeless, being a burden to others
  • A person withdraws from activities, family and friends
  • A person searches online for information about killing themself or death
  • A person gives away prized possessions
  • A person calls or visits people as if they are saying goodbye
  • A person exhibits aggression or fatigue
  • A person increases use of alcohol or drugs
  • A person who had been anxious or depressed experiences relief or sudden improvement

One of the important things I learned from partnering with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is that real conversations about suicide save lives.

If you find you can’t get over the hump, visit the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention website at afsp.org/CapitalregionNY. They can help you open up to address your mental health which will improve your wellbeing during the pandemic. AFSP has local programs and resources as well that they can send or bring to your place of work, school, church, or organization.

In addition, you can show support for suicide prevention and raise money for this important work by participating in the Capital Region NY Out of the Darkness Walks. Or you can donate directly at www.tinyurl.com/Donate2CRNY

These annual walks are going to look different this year in light of social distancing safety concerns. Instead of everyone walking together in a large group, you get to walk on your terms. You get to choose your own course, what time you start and who walks next to you (within safe distancing guidelines)! The walking is real—it's the community that's virtual this year.   However, while we won't be actually walking together, we WILL be gathering to connect on each of the event dates.  JOIN US!

Everyone registered will be invited to the Nov. 1 Online Celebration of Remembrance and Hope!

Ready to join AFSP and show the world that we are always #TogetherToFightSuicide? Get started at AFSP.org/Capitalregiontogether.