Man Therapy connects Arizona men to health services with comedy

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(Source: 3TV/CBS 5) (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)

There’s a longstanding belief among many men that asking for help when struggling with depression is a sign of weakness.

Iraq war veteran Patrick Ziegert knows that all to well. In 2005, he and his best friends were rolling down a dirt road in Iraq when an IED exploded underneath their Humvee.

"My first cognitive, kind of memory of that was kind of laughing. Believing, wow that was really close and fully expecting my three friends to be able to walk out of the dust cloud and brush themselves off,” Ziegert explained.

His friends did not walk away. All three of them died. Ziegert finished his tour and came home a changed man.

“I had no interest in the things I used to enjoy in the past. I found myself isolating quite a bit,” he said.

Ziegert turned to alcohol. He found himself being easily provoked. His friends and family took notice and pushed him to get help.

 “We are supposed to man up. In the military they tell you to suck it up, buttercup. But things have changed. Where even now, senior military leadership are saying, it takes strength to ask for help,” he said.

Ziegert now helps other veterans deal with PTSD as part of an organization called Operation Freedom Bird. And yes, things have changed in the overall approach and culture when it comes to dealing with mental illness. That’s why he’s excited about Man Therapy, an internet campaign with a fictional therapist who uses comedy to push men to seek help.

“What’s unique with Man Therapy, using that humor to really normalize the stigma around asking for help. I think it’s been very effective in having the conversations,” said Tanesha Hildebrand with Mercy Maricopa.

The organization partnered with other mental health agencies in Arizona to make Dr. Rich Mahogany, a mix between "Ron Burgandy and Dr. Phil,” a part of their effort to encourage men to get the ball rolling in addressing their mental health.

Man Therapy has generated tens of thousands of self-assessments on it’s site which helps men determine how to move forward. Thousands more have also accessed crisis information on the site.

“If a pretend doctor like me is concerned about you, you should probably get some help,” says Dr. Rich Mahogany, getting more serious in one of the website’s videos.

The hope is that they eventually turn to groups like Mercy Maricopa.

“We would look at, what is it that you do need? Do you need to see a doctor for medication? Do you need to see a therapist,” asks Hildebrand.

Ziegert feels Man Therapy opens up doors and helps change the culture that has contributed to struggles men face internally.

 "You’re not alone," pleads Ziegert. "It’s tough to admit that there’s something that’s not right. And it takes a great amount of strength and courage to be able to ask for assistance."

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