“No emotions are emotions.” The product of a 2020 New Balance partnership with basketball star Kawhi Leonard, the slogan is meant as a nod to the player’s stoic demeanor.
But it caught the eye of Gregory Scott Brown, M.D., affiliate faculty in the Dell Med Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences who graduated from the Psychiatry Residency program in summer 2019: It is marketing the very mindset he works to counteract.
“This idea of ‘Don't show emotion, don't cry, don't talk about the way that you feel, just suck it up and keep moving forward’ is a huge, huge problem,” Brown says. “Not just for psychiatry. I consider it a public health issue. When a lot of these young men are struggling with things like depression and anxiety, they feel like they can't talk about it.”
For Brown, it took overcoming guilt and shame to seek help for his own depressive episode — an experience from his 20s that he wrote about for Men’s Health. Since that time, he has hosted a podcast, contributes regularly to Psychology Today and maintains an active social media presence. He uses these outlets to be what he calls a wellness advocate, encouraging open conversation and reduced stigma around mental health.
I’m a psychiatrist, husband, man of color and proud wellness advocate. Every day, I see patients and tell them: Talk, speak up. But a decade ago, suffering from depression, I didn’t say a word. ...
Now I know that the only way to end stigma is to have productive talks about mental health. To break the silence. One conversation at a time.
Gregory Scott Brown, M.D. | Men’s Health, 2019
This is especially important for men, who are 3.5 times more likely to die by suicide than women, despite being diagnosed with depression half as often. Still, when men do reach out to Brown for help, they may tell him about a condition they perceive as more masculine — ADHD instead of anxiety, alcohol abuse instead of depression.
“Sometimes just getting men to acknowledge those things or really get to the root of the problem takes time,” Brown says. “I think that for men of color, it's an even bigger challenge.”
Bringing It All Together
Brown is an integrative psychiatrist, meaning he takes a holistic approach to mental health care: He and others at his practice are registered yoga teachers. There are no rushed medicine checks, and it’s not unusual for an appointment to take place with Brown and his patient seated on meditation cushions.
Integrative psychiatry is not just holistic, but also evidence-based. Any tool that has been verified by research can be incorporated into treatment: standard-of-care medications with the help of complementary practices. For example, studies have indicated that yoga can increase the alpha brainwave activity associated with relaxation, the amino acid L-theanine and ashwagandha can calm anxiety, and omega-3 supplements can improve symptoms of depression. To Brown, it just makes sense to have a comprehensive discussion with patients about all possible treatment options.
“A lot of patients will come to a psychiatrist’s office, and there's just not much buy-in. They feel like psychiatrists are just pill pushers, or they don't really have a lot of time to hear their story,” Brown says. “I see integrative medicine as a way to broaden access to care. We're really giving people options, and as long as we're able to have those discussions, more people can at least get a foot in the door to get the help they need.”
Integrative psychiatry can also promote sustainable recovery by teaching patients wellness skills like maintaining proper nutrition, incorporating regular movement and fostering positive relationships. Because these skills can be incorporated anywhere a patient may be — Brown considers yoga to be everything from breath-work in bed to an organized class — wellness is the path toward health.
“That's really what I focus on with my patients,” Brown says. “Things don't have to be completely the way that you want them to be. But as long as you are living your life in a way that promotes health and you're doing what you can to take care of yourself, then, in my view, that's wellness. And that's a way to live a content life.”
This news feature is part of Dell Med's Voices, a series of profiles that highlight the people of Dell Med as they work to improve health with a unique focus on our community.