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Man Therapy is a mental health and suicide prevention campaign targeting working age men (25-54) that employs humor to cut through stigma and tackle issues like depression, divorce and suicidal thoughts. The campaign is built around http://www.mantherapy.org and features the fictional Dr. Mahogany, described by Andrew Newman in the New York Times as “an affable, mustachioed, middle-aged man whose personality might be described as Dr. Phil meets Ron Burgundy, Will Ferrell’s fictional anchorman.”
Man Therapy was created by Cactus, a Denver-based ad agency, in conjunction with the Carson J Spencer Foundation and the Office of Suicide Prevention at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE).
About the campaign
The purpose of the Man Therapy campaign is to provide men approaching crisis, and their loved ones, a place to go and learn more about men’s mental health, examine their own and consider a wide array of actions that will put them on the path to treatment and recovery. The message is that all men should be aware of their mental health, treat it like they would a broken leg and strive to get better.
Man Therapy is built around the fictional Man Therapist, Dr. Rich Mahogany. He’s a man’s man who is dedicated to cutting through the denial with a fresh approach using his rapier wit, odd sense of humor, no BS approach and practical, useful advice for men. There exists an age-old stigma that says mental health disorders are unmanly signs of weakness. Dr. Rich Mahogany and Man Therapy, is dedicated to smashing that.
The centerpiece of the campaign is the http://mantheraphy.org website, where men and their loved ones will find they have a virtual appointment with Dr. Mahogany. He greets visitors, makes them feel at ease and then provides an overview of what they will find and explore during their visit. From there, visitors can navigate through Dr. Mahogany’s office where they can find useful information about men’s mental health including guy’s guide to Gentlemental Health. Men can also choose to take an 18-question quiz to evaluate their own mental health, access resources and explore a wide range of actions from accessing do-it-yourself tips, seeking therapy referral sources, links to local support groups and organizations as well as a crisis line.
The integrated communications campaign also includes a 30-second TV PSA, viral videos, social media, outdoor boards and outreach materials such as posters, coasters and Dr. Mahogany’s business card.
In 2006, as a part of their partnership with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, Cactus was introduced to Jarrod Hindman, Director of the Office of Suicide Prevention (OSP). He was running an underfunded program to address the critically important issue of suicide in Colorado. Cactus agreed to do some pro bono work for the program. Through that process the agency learned a great deal about this issue and was introduced to the Carson J Spencer Foundation (CJSF), a local non-profit dedicated to suicide prevention. CJSF was founded in 2005 after its namesake, Carson Spencer, a 34-year-old Denver businessman, died by suicide following a difficult battle with bipolar disorder. Together, the three –– Cactus, OSP and CJSF –– formed a partnership to try to reach working aged men who were potentially high risk for suicide and unlikely to seek help on their own.
With a $25,000 contribution from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and $5,000 allocated from a larger Garrett Lee Smith Suicide Prevention grant, we developed a comprehensive public education plan while conducting some very insightful and thrifty research studies. Fortunately, the Office of Suicide Prevention landed some untapped state dollars for a one-time, $400,000 campaign. Cactus competed for the contract in a competitive, state-bid process and was awarded the contract in 2009. However, a week after the contract was signed, we were informed that due to state budget cuts the entire grant and contract was cancelled. We were once again left with nothing but a really great plan and zero budget to implement it. Not to be deterred, the partnership forged ahead to launch this vital campaign. Serendipitously, we heard the The Anschutz Foundation was looking to invest in a suicide prevention program. We jumped on the opportunity and submitted a grant proposal on behalf of a private/public/non-profit partnership between Cactus, Office of Suicide Prevention at CDPHE and the Carson J Spencer Foundation. We were awarded a grant from The Anschutz Foundation to develop a campaign while establishing a sustainable effort in Colorado and beyond.