Campaign targets depression, anxiety, and suicide with humor

8:11 PM, Dec 13, 2012   |    comments
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Mantherapy is a campaign targeted at working-age men in Colorado.

The campaign centers around Dr. Rich Mahogany, a fictional therapist, who uses a series of dry, witty, jokes to broach the topic of mental health issues with men.

"There are a lot of things a man should never do, like slap fighting, pony riding, manscaping, skipping, breaking a sweat on an elliptical machine and, of course, referring to runs in baseball as points," Mahogany says on the introduction to the website

Then, Mahogany quickly changes the tone.

"Being open and honest about your life and your problems with your friends and relatives, that is one of the least unmanly things a man can do," he says.

So far, state officials say the response to the Mahogany's humorous approach has been overwhelmingly positive.

"We thought men put up barriers to asking for help," Jarrod Hindman, Director of the Colorado Office of Suicide Prevention, said. "We're trying to present a tool that's designed specifically for men."

More than 140,000 people have visited since it launched in July and numerous mental therapists have praised the site's work, Hindman said.

"It's great to go in and read stories that it's really making a difference," Hindman said.

In addition to the website, PSA's have aired on TV, been posted on billboards, and a series of coasters have found their way into Colorado bars advertising the Mantherapy website.

Statistics show Colorado ranks 8th in the nation for the number of suicides, according to the American Foundation on Suicide Prevention.

Approximately 910 people in Colorado took their own lives in 2011. Of those 910, 57 percent were men ages 25 to 64.

Hindman's office partnered with Cactus, a Denver-based advertising and marketing agency, to create the Mantherapy campaign, along with the Carson J. Spencer Foundation, a suicide-prevention organization.

The Anschutz Family Foundation provided $100,000 to help build the Mantherapy website. Colorado's Office of Suicide Prevention is using $110,000 in state funding to train organizations how to recognize warning signs for suicide in men.

Those 11 organizations in 28 Colorado counties are also tasked with giving out posters, drink coasters, and business cards in their communities.

Brett "Zach" Zachman shares his testimonial on Zachman overcame depression and suicidal thoughts after a separation and divorce nine years ago.

He now runs a non-profit organization called BeMen.

"Chances are, most of the guys in the room with you are right there with you," Zachman said. "So those testimonials that Mantherapy have put up, have been wonderful."

Already, the campaign has generated calls from organizations that want to study the long-term effects of the humorous messaging with such a serious topic.

Yet, Colorado officials are quick to point out the website doesn't leave too much joking around for men who need serious help. There is a link to Colorado's Suicide Prevention Hotline.

Also, if survey results from an "18-point head inspection" on the website lead to concerns, Dr. Mahogany chimes in to remind men they need to seek a professional.

"Your results have me worried," Dr. Mahogany says on the website after the survey's completion. "Needless to say if a pretend doctor is concerned about you, you probably should get some help.

(KUSA-TV © 2012 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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