By Connor Lannen
In April, I sat in a high school gymnasium and had to say goodbye to a close friend. He was one of the most genuine people you could meet in a hundred lifetimes.
There was a certain joy that he brought to the world and the people in which he surrounded himself with. When I was at some low points this past year, he was the one who reminded me of all of the great qualities I have within myself and he truly helped me see some things inside of me that I may have been intentionally blinding myself from.
The thing that haunts me is all of those qualities that I had to be reminded of, were the same qualities that Tanner possessed, maybe even to a greater extent. Tanner was so great at being everyone else’s hype man, but could never see the good within himself.
It’s something that isn’t talked about enough in society, the mental health of men, specifically in the formative years of our lives. There is a certain stigma in society that men are supposed to be tough and be the providers throughout life.
We don’t talk about our problems with our friends because it is a lot easier to just talk about girls and sports. We isolate people from what’s really going on in our heads because if we are open about our fragility, that would be seen as a weakness.
I had a lot of very deep and reflective conversations recently, I guess that is a blessing that Tanner left us. I saw the beaming love in that gymnasium, I hugged my friends tight, I cried with them and I was there with them.
It’s a pain that I would never wish upon anyone and it’s a pain that I am still struggling to put words to. It’s a pain that I sure as hell never want to experience again.
According to The American College Health Association, 46% of male college students have felt that things are hopeless, within the last year, 49% of male college students have felt overwhelming anxiety, and 34.8% reported feeling so depressed that it was difficult to function.
These are statistics that need to be recognized. There is a mental health crisis going on in America right now and it’s a crisis that is too important not to be recognized throughout the entire population, not just in women. It is okay to not be okay and there are people and resources that can help when you are not okay.
Life is a crazy concept, one that I still have not fully grasped. Life is challenging and there are incredibly hard things that many of us go through in silence. For as many hard times as there are in life, there are just as many, if not more, good times. There are beautiful moments each and every day that a shift in perception will allow us to see.
Things are never truly as bad as they seem, and it takes some resilience but there are lots of ways to fix problems that feel like a desolate hole with no answer. The three largest areas that college men said they struggled with were academics, finances, and intimate relationships.
Academics may not be for everyone and it is why I will never pass judgment upon someone who has to drop out of college to focus on themselves. Troubles with academics are a temporary problem and in the big picture of life, not very important.
Troubles with finances, again are temporary problems. Money comes and goes in life and you never know which opportunity you may be presented with as a way to make money.
Heartbreak is a difficult thing to go through especially at a young and vulnerable age. In life, there will be struggles with intimate relationships and sometimes life may feel incredibly lonely. However, you never know when you will run into that person that completely changes you and brings you genuine happiness.
I don’t want to act like I haven’t been overwhelmed by those same problems in my life because that wouldn’t be true. The point I’m trying to make by tagging those problems as “temporary” is that a shift in perspective can be a life-saving shift.
It would amaze you how many people hide their problems and put on a smile everyday that has zero correlation to what is going on in their heads. Men are three times more likely to commit suicide than women are and I think the stigma behind “how men are supposed to act” is a large cause of that.
It seems as it is finally becoming normalized to talk about these problems and the pandemic brought out a lot of discussion. Mental health problems are not something that should or can go untreated. Although there has been progress lately, there still is a long way to go. After the tragedy that I, as well as my hometown, went through, there was a simple message flooded across Instagram: Check in on your friends. Even the ones that smile all the time. There are far too many suicide stories from people who (didn’t) look suicidal.
This message is important because a lot of times you don’t realize it until it’s too late. Life gets better and normalizing mental health issues within men is a huge step to stopping these tragedies from happening.
The biggest piece of advice I can provide is that if you are having a hard night, make yourself go to sleep. You will wake up in the morning with a fresh shot at life. I have a long way to go until my mental health is where I want it to be but in Tanner’s honor, I will never take life for granted again.
1-800-273-8255 is the National Suicide Prevention hotline, reach out if you need help. GRCC also provides free counseling to students at (616) 234-4130.
If anyone feels inclined to donate to Tanner’s family after their tragic loss can donate to his GoFundMe titled ‘Help with Tanner’s Student Loans.’