"I really wish that I would have spoken out earlier," says Brady in a PSA campaign for Bring Change 2 Mind
Although he felt too afraid to speak out for many years, comedian Wayne Brady is opening up once more about his longtime struggle with depression.
After revealing to Entertainment Tonight in November that he suffered a “breakdown” on his 42nd birthday last June, Brady points to the difficulty men have with opening up about mood disorders in a patriarchal culture that demands they hide their feelings.
“It’s difficult for men in general, I think, because of just the way that we’re raised,” says Brady in the video exclusive to PEOPLE above. “We feel any of the negative emotions or that dark cloud settle on you, and you feel like you need to cry out or speak to someone about it, and, ‘Nope, I’m not gonna do that, because I’m a man.’ “
Brady continues: “What kind of man would I sound like if I told somebody, ‘Hey, I am so sad. I’m cripplingly sad. I can’t get out of bed. I just feel empty. Help me.’ ” He explains, “I’d be [seen as] some sissy. I’d be soft. That’s what you’re taught. That’s how you were programmed.
“And that’s what kills us.”
Bring Change 2 Mind is a non-profit organization dedicated to erasing the stigma surrounding mental illness. In a new campaign, #StrongerThanStigma, the organization aims to encourage men, in particular, to normalize conversations about mental health.
Because admitting to having feelings of any kind can be seen as a vulnerability or weakness, “the rate of suicide among men has been three to four times that of women,” says Bring Change 2 Mind in a press release. “One in four adults experience a mental illness in a given year. Yet, nearly two-thirds do not seek treatment. Especially men.”
Joining Brady in the campaign are singer-songwriter Michael Angelakos, who suffers with bipolar disorder, and Edmonton Oilers goalie Ben Scrivens, who has worked closely with people who have been diagnosed with schizophrenia.
Chicago Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall co-produced the Bring Change 2 Mind PSA with wife Michi under the umbrella of the non-profit Project 375, which they co-founded in 2011 after Marshall announced he had been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder.
“It s so important for us to continue this fight on the stigma placed on brain health,” said Marshall in a statement. “What most don’t realize is this affects all of us. I love this PSA because it penetrates to the root of our men’s problems, and that’s asking for help and letting them know it’s okay to talk about it.”