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Hollywood Is Stepping Up To Change The Stigma Around Men And Therapy

It's about time.

01/06/2017 8:16 AM AEST | Updated 01/06/2017 8:16 AM AEST

While many public figures have worked to make mental health a less taboo topic, famous men in particular seem to be speaking out now more than ever.

In a very recent example, Peter Kraus, a contestant on The Bachelorette, started an open, honest conversation about going to therapy on his date with bachelorette Rachel Lindsay.

"I saw a relationship therapist, and it actually helped me a lot, and I think it's helping me a lot now to be more calm in my thoughts," he said.

But the trend stems far beyond reality television. Recently, Brad Pitt spoke about his experience with therapy, including the extremely relatable experience of seeing several mental health professionals before finding the right fit.

"I think I spent a lot of time avoiding feelings," Pitt told GQ Style. "And now I have no time left for that."

Singer Zayn Malik opened up about his experience with an eating disorder and anxiety earlier this year. "How To Get Away With Murder" star Matt McGorry recently tweeted about the power of going to therapy as part of May's Mental Health Awareness Month. Even hit television shows like "This Is Us" and "You're The Worst" are tackling storylines about men dealing with mental health issues like anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.

The pattern extends to the sports world. In a May interview with the mental health group Child Mind Institute, NFL player Brandon Marshall discussed how seeking help for borderline personality disorder transformed his life.

"It's extremely important that every time something comes up, I reach out to someone and let someone in, no matter how hard it is or difficult it is to express those feelings," he said.

Marshall has been a mental health advocate for years (he even co-founded his own mental health organization, Project 375, as a way to dismantle negative stereotypes). But it's candor like this ― whether it's repeated or coming from a new public figure ― that has arguably contributed to the growing momentum that's enabling more people to speak publicly about their experiences with mental health.

It's extremely important that every time something comes up, I reach out to someone and let someone in, no matter how hard it is or difficult it is to express those feelings. Brandon Marshall

The fact is that there are more celebrity men who are sharing their mental health experiences, according to Dan Reidenberg, executive director of Suicide Awareness Voices of Education. This is in stark contrast to the Hollywood of old, which movie stars and athletes were portrayed as invulnerable.

This kind of shift can be particularly beneficial for the boys and men who are watching along, Reidenberg says.

"It creates a wave of change that we're all human and mental illnesses are not gender-selective," Reidenberg told HuffPost. "When a public figure talks about their depression, anxiety, OCD or challenges with substance abuse, it begins to break down barriers and create conversations that for too long have been hidden."

"You have that same person talk about being burdened by depression and beating it through therapy ... and you've now made it possible for other males to see beyond the exterior," he said.

Mental illnesses are not gender-selective. Dan Reidenberg

Men are far less likely to seek treatment for mental illness, according to the American Psychological Association. And most crucially, A 2015 report found that men are more likely to not speak up if they're having suicidal thoughts.

That's a dangerous problem considering suicide rates are on the rise, increasing by 24 percent in the last 15 years. Men, in particular, are susceptible to this public health problem, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Data from the organization shows middle-aged men are the most likely to die by suicide of any demographic. There's also been a general uptick in suicide rates among males since 1999.

Treatment is hands down the most effective way to manage a mental health condition. Research shows techniques like therapy can help rewire the brain in a positive way over time. Some doctors will also prescribe medication or lifestyle changes to help ease the effects.

Reidenberg hopes more men heed this sentiment, particularly given the fact that they're at risk for self harm.

"Things can and do get better, but you've got to start by being open and saying 'something is wrong and I need help,'" Reidenberg stressed. "The sooner you do that, the sooner you can get your life back."

Of course, you don't need to be at risk for self-harm to seek professional support. Getting help as early as possible can help prevent mental health issues from escalating that far. You can also seek therapy for less serious matters as a way to maintain good psychological wellbeing in the face of stress or personal challenges.

Props to public figures for helping to deliver that message.

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