In our written posts, we will explore a wide range of topics including modern issues surrounding masculinity and male identity, how men can connect more deeply with themselves and others, and daily, actionable steps that any man can take to transform themselves and their lives.

On our podcast ‘Tales That Tethr’, tethr Founder & CEO Matt Zerker interviews entrepreneurs, experts, thought leaders, and regular people about what is means to be a man, the challenges that modern men face, and how to overcome challenges and live life in a more connected and authentic way.

•••

In our continual effort to demonstrate vulnerability, VP Addison Brasil and CEO Matt Zerker both recently took the time to tell their stories to HeadsUpGuys. We’re always happy to show our support for the free resource site for men suffering from depression.

On the site, they have a dedicated section where men can share their real-life stories and helpful tips for battling depression. In a sea of statistics and hotline numbers, it’s humanizing to see the faces of other people who’ve struggled and won.

Addison and Matt both wrote about the healing power of peer support and the importance of finding a safe space to share your emotions — something they initially found from other another.

“Matt and I began peer supporting each other, much like men do on the tethr app now. Messages, check-ins and even peer coaching calls during crisis moments before and after seeking professional help,” Addison explains in his piece. In many ways, their connection during hard times was the first version of tethr.

Flash forward many months and they’ve built the app and now speak professionally together about the power of peer support. Below, read the rest of their stories.

Addison’s Story

WHAT WAS THE MAJOR TURNING POINT IN YOUR RECOVERY FROM DEPRESSION?

I tried so many treatment opportunities to work through the depression that stemmed from my compounded grief process and the PTSD from two traumatic events. I am often heard saying that what worked – was everyone and everything. A combination of having a mentor, professional medical help, meditation, holistic modalities but when things truly started to change was when I joined peer support programs.

WHAT ARE SOME THINGS THAT REALLY HELPED?

Having a Mentor

  • In a chance encounter, I met my mentor and excellence coach, Jenifer Merifield, on a plane. (No joke, after I surrendered told the universe I needed help and headed for my hometown)
  • On a 5 hour flight I realized I had been operating from a victim consciousness and that at best I was trying to survive, but not aligning with the elements of life that would allow me to thrive. Two years later, I continue to learn and apply mindset work to my daily life.

The Power of Peer Support

  • After my father’s suicide, I felt the least isolated when I joined an 8-week program where I was paired with a suicide loss facilitator and peer, who had also been through losing someone to a traumatic death.
  • After the accident, I joined a men’s excellence group and a series of onlone forums that provided safe spaces for men to show up fully in relation to their mental health. I reconnected during this time with tethr co-founder, Matt Zerker, an old high school acquaintance.

Finding Purpose and Looking for Ways to Support Other Men

  • Matt and I began peer supporting each other, much like men do on the tethr app now. Messages, check-ins and even peer coaching calls during crisis moments before and after seeking professional help.

Letting Go

  • Stop trying to control how the healing profess is supposed to go, how the physical or emotional pain is “supposed to” show up or disappear. Talk to your team (professionals, trusted peers, mentors) and decided what is the best next step as you are taking it.
  • I said I would never take medicine. When I became suicidally depressed due to chronic pain and PTSD symptoms, I let go oh my judgments, talked with my doctors and figured out a way forward guided by my heart and science.

WHAT ADVIE WOULD YOU GIVE TO OTHER GUYS FIGHTING DEPRESSION?

Find one person you can talk to about your mental wellbeing. The power of peer support changed my life. Create a safe space where you can talk about your mental health journey that doesn’t only consist of discussing and championing the harder moments, but also the tiny breakthroughs.

My biggest advice whether it comes to grief, depression or PTSD is “honour the journey.” Whatever you are feeling, whenever you are feeling it – honour it – name it, feel it, chat about it, normalize the fact that you are a fully feeling human being that is designed to heal one day at a time.

Matt’s Story

WHAT WAS THE MAJOR TURNING POINT IN YOUR RECOVERY FROM DEPRESSION?

One day in October 2018 I was talking to a friend of mine, who happened to be a therapist-in-training, in a desperate attempt to figure out what else I could do to make the pain stop. He invited me to join a men’s group with him. I was no stranger to group therapy at this point and figured things couldn’t possibly get any worse.

While I didn’t immediately realize it, going to that men’s group would profoundly alter me and the course of my life. That first night, a group of men I’d never met held space for me to be exactly who I was. I was encouraged to be entirely open and to say exactly what I was going through. They honoured my courage for speaking so honestly and acknowledged how painful it must be to be exactly where I was at that moment. No one tried to change anything, they simply listened.

They calmly acknowledged where they identified with my story with the soft placement and tapping of their fist on their heart. I felt seen that night. While I wasn’t a stranger to telling people that I wasn’t okay, this felt different. I felt like some of the burden of my experience had been lifted off my shoulders by the simple fact that here was a group of men who could connect with what I was feeling on a profoundly deep level. My experience suddenly wasn’t something that isolated me from people, it was something that connected me to them.

WHAT ARE SOME THINGS THAT REALLY HELPED?

For me the biggest thing has been finding a safe place to fully explore the feelings and past trauma that had led to me shutting down emotionally for so many years. Finding spaces where I could safely explore years of unexpressed anger, grief, shame, and a deep sadness that was poisoning me from the inside.

In these spaces I was able to acknowledge, express, and not feel shame around the anger that I felt deeply inside for the things that had happened to me and the needs I had that went unmet when I was a child. I also discovered that I was profoundly unhappy with the way I was living my life and needed to change things quickly. Finally, I realized there was something to these open and vulnerable conversations with other men that was profoundly impacting me and shifting how I felt for the better.

The second big thing that helped was realizing that having emotions, feeling inadequate, and struggling to find my path didn’t make me less of a man, it made me human. In my recovery from suicidal depression it has very much crystallized in my mind that outdated notions of what it meant to be a man kept me sick for a long time and sometimes still stands in the way of me feeling like I can be truly authentic.

It’s my personal experience that authentic connection and true healing can occur simply by having these conversations in a forum that encourages and supports them. I know from my own experience that consistently having real conversations with other men of integrity has profoundly shifted my personal outlook, attitudes, and behaviours. I can honestly say that I feel like a better man today because of this work.

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO OTHER GUYS FIGHTING DEPRESSION?

Begin the process of allowing yourself to be seen as an imperfect human being that struggles and has emotions. There is tremendous freedom in knowing that you don’t have to have it all together. We have been fed a story of an impossible standard that we need to live up to as men from societal conditioning, the media, and in some cases the male influences in our lives.

Putting a lid on my feelings and not having a healthy outlet to express them created a toxicity within me that would manifest as persistent anxiety, difficulty finding motivation to do anything, a decreased sex drive, and engaging in a variety of negative behaviours that were harmful to myself and everyone my life touched.

A big thing I’ve learned since first beginning this journey is that I’m not the only man deeply struggling. This is a pervasive problem that has culminated in a largely hidden crisis in men’s mental health. So the MOST important thing to realize is that you are not alone and you are far from the only person struggling to live up to that invisible standard of masculinity.

As such, my biggest piece of advice is find a community that can provide a container where you can begin this process and make sure the values of that community resonate with you. I would suggest a community where there is support, guidance and an ability to interact with other men who are on the same path as you. Of course, the reason I created tethr was because I felt like there weren’t enough of these spaces that were readily available to men and could be accessed on-demand, regardless of where you were. If our values and our mission resonate with you we would be honoured to have you join us on your journey to becoming the man that you know you can be.

•••

tethr is the first peer-to-peer support platform that connects men for open conversations about real life. We provide men with a safe, barrier-free online space for open dialogue and genuine support, allowing men to connect deeply with themselves, other men, and everyone their lives touch.