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Paddy Pimblett is one bad dude in the UFC octagon. They even call him “Paddy The Baddy.” Aside from winning mixed martial arts fights, however, this British lightweight has also landed a powerful blow against mental health stigma among men. And that is a really good message to share.
Fresh off another win last weekend, Pimblett could have used his post-match interview to gloat. Instead, he dedicated the victory in part to a friend who recently died by suicide.
“I woke up on Friday morning [at] 4 a.m. to a message that one of me friends back home killed himself. This was 5 hours before me weigh-in. So Ricky, lad, that’s for you,” Pimblett said on July 23.
He quickly diagnosed and then dismantled a common misconception among men, that talking about feelings is somehow a weakness.
“There’s a stigma in this world that men can’t talk,” Pimblett said. “Listen, if you’re a man, and you’ve got weight on your shoulders, and you think the only way you can solve it is by killing yourself, please speak to someone.”
The crowd cheered in support of his message. This was no small statement from a rising star in the mixed martial arts world. In a society that too often treats mental health challenges as weaknesses to be hid, and in a sport where toughness is everything, Pimblett’s effort to break through the stigma is quite something. It’s a message that we hope will land with men everywhere.
According to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data from 2020, the suicide rate among men in the U.S. was four times that of women. Men made up 49 percent of the population but represented almost 80 percent of suicides.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness Maine (NAMI Maine) has worked to cut through the stigma with an initiative called “Man Therapy” that promotes men seeking help and taking ownership of their mental health.
“Working aged men (25-54 years old) account for the largest number of suicide deaths in the U.S. These men are also the least likely to receive any kind of support,” according to the Man Therapy section on NAMI Maine’s website. “They don’t talk about it with their friends. They don’t share with their family. And they sure as heck don’t seek professional treatment. They are the victims of problematic thinking that says mental health disorders are unmanly signs of weakness.”
The tough thing, the brave thing, the necessary thing, is to talk about those struggles and feelings. Just listen to Paddy Pimblett.
“Speak to anyone. People would rather — I know I would rather me mate cry on me shoulder than go to his funeral next week,” Pimblett said. “So, please, let’s get rid of the stigma and men start talking.”