Letters to the Tribe is a social media outreach project founded by Scott Drosselmeier in honor of Mental Health Awareness Month. Scott launched Letters to the Tribe with a stated mission of “31 days of conversation, compassion and change”, and he is opening up the discussion surrounding depression and anxiety by publicly sharing stories of his personal struggles with mental health.
Letters to the Tribe is making a difference by challenging the outdated social constructs that encourage emotional repression in boys and men. His project calls into question this type of masculine social conditioning, which has proven to have negative consequences — and sometimes, catastrophic results.
One in six people will experience depression at some point in their lifetime, and almost 50 percent of all people diagnosed with depression are also diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. Despite these statistics, mental health issues often do not receive the proper treatment due to factors like inadequate education, the cost of treatment and limited access to resources.
Many people suffering from mental disorders have experienced shame and isolation stemming from the social and cultural stigmatization of mental illness. By sharing his struggles with anxiety and depression, Scott is providing an invaluable safe haven and resource for anyone who has felt alone, ashamed or ostracized by their own mental health journey.
In the following interview, Like a Boss Girls Editor-in-Chief Meredith Reed talks to Scott Drosselmeier about the deeply personal experiences that led him to create Letters to the Tribe.
What inspired you to start Letters to the Tribe?
I saw Instagram accounts and Facebook pages that were dedicated to topics surrounding anxiety and depression. Personally, I felt a lot of them were skating around the issue. I rarely saw the faces or heard the stories of the people who had been affected by these issues on social media. It was even more difficult to find men who were doing things on social media to increase mental health awareness.
This is why I decided to be transparent and become the story, using my anxiety and depression to tell my narrative. Anxiety and depression are an aspect of my life, but these factors are not my entire story — so I wanted to speak about all sides of myself when it came to addressing these topics.
How is the work you are doing with Letters to the Tribe making an impact on the world today?
I am making an impact on the world by being transparent about the far-reaching implications of anxiety and depression. As I previously stated, I have come across very few people who are pulling the curtains to the side to let others take a long, hard look.
Every Instagram post I do for Letters to the Tribe is very honest. I think I’m sharing my challenges in a well-written, finely-crafted way. I’m not just posting inspirational quotes; I’m telling my story, which is a story that millions of people can relate to,
My hope is that everyone can gain more mental health awareness for themselves and those they love.
Coworkers and friends have told me I have the unique ability to speak with all people — regardless of job title, position in life, cultural background, creed — in the same exact way. I treat everyone as equals. The way I see it, we are just two people conversing, communicating. To me, it’s just called life. It’s called being human.
What, in your opinion, is one of the biggest challenges facing men & mental health awareness today?
Conversation and communication.
It is difficult for the vast majority of men to talk about their emotions, because in our culture (and many others) we do not teach boys how to speak openly about what they are going through. If anything, we teach boys to “man up” and repress their feelings. Foolishly — and at times, dangerously — we will believe that it is feminine or weak for men to speak up about painful aspects of their lives.
Isolation and loneliness are prevalent in our society, especially for men. Technology, working remotely, the shift in parenting roles and the pace of modern life are just some of the things that can make it difficult for men to form deep bonds with others.
Tribalism can be a very healthy thing. It can be a catalyst for bonding and sharing with others. A tribe can provide the camaraderie many are missing in their lives.
Hence, Letters to the Tribe.
A current leader you admire & why:
I’m hard-pressed to think of a political leader I admire at the moment. In the world of humanity and development, I admire Malala Yousafzai who won the Nobel Peace Prize. Malala is a crusader for the importance of providing girls and women with access to education.
What is one of your biggest goals for this project?
I launched Letters to the Tribe about two and a half weeks ago for Mental Health Awareness Month. I’m happy with the size of the tribe thus far, and very happy with the level of engagement I’ve been getting.
In the future, I’d love Letters to the Tribe to grow into a large community, where people who have been impacted by anxiety and depression can openly shares their stories, find helpful information and inspire each other.
Most importantly, my main goal is to give a voice to all the people who’ve been silenced by the stigma attached to anxiety and depression. I want to counteract the isolation and shame that occurs from that stigmatization.
Quote/piece of advice that you live by:
I have a few, and they’re all from the same person — Milarepa, who is often referred to as the patron saint of Tibet.
“My religion is to live and die without regret.”
“Take the lowest place, and you shall reach the highest.”
“My religion is not deceiving myself.”
What is one thing you’ve accomplished through Letters to the Tribe so far that you are most proud of?
I am touched by all of the Letters to the Tribe followers on Facebook and Instagram who have left heartfelt and deeply honest comments on my posts. Complete strangers are becoming part of the tribe and publicly sharing their struggles with depression and anxiety as well.
Many people have also sent me direct messages, sharing their struggles and thanking me for being so honest about my story because they feel I have given them a voice as well. The response confirms my sense that mental health awareness is important to everyone.
What were you doing before you started Letters to the Tribe?
I was a grammar school teacher for a long spell. For the past 2-3 years, I have been working as a freelance digital marketer with many different types of clients. My freelance work has been very interesting because I have been able to learn about several different industries. I was also a teaching assistant at General Assembly in NYC.
On top of all of this, I’ve been going through the healing process while raising a son. I think I’m a pretty cool (and very busy) stay-at-home Dad. I run a tight ship. Our place is always clean, the laundry is always folded, and dinner is ready to eat by the time my hardworking wife gets home from the office.
Are there any mental health resources you have discovered that you would like to share?
To begin a meditation practice, I’d suggest downloading the Headspace app. It’s a great place to start. For more in-depth meditation instruction from world-class experts and scholars, I would recommend an organization called Pointing Out the Great Way. They have direct connections and working relationships with Tibetan monks who have spent their entire lives meditating and exploring the complexities of the mind. The way that I see it, it’s always best to learn from the best.
Someone in history that you admire & why:
Malcolm X, because he is a true American hero. Think about it. He pulled himself out a world of drug addiction, self-destruction and the prison system. He went on to preach self-love and self-advocacy to the African American community. Eventually, he wanted to work with all Americans and people from diverse backgrounds, bridging differences by emphasizing our commonalities. If he isn’t seen as an American hero, then I don’t know who is.
What is one of the greatest challenges you have faced so far with building Letters to the Tribe?
The greatest challenges for me are time and financial resources — I feel like I never enough of either one. It may seem like writing so honestly about myself and my experiences would be my greatest challenges, but it has actually been cathartic and the easiest part of my project.
What is a trend in men’s mental health that you foresee becoming popular in the future?
Group gatherings, bonding opportunities and events dedicated to promoting a healthy mind. I hope to host events like that in the future, and everyone would be welcome. I believe in the importance of building a tribe. Look around you — it’s needed.
I have also been really excited to hear many influencers and media outlets talking about the benefits of meditation. My hope is that meditation will become a staple in many people’s lives, just like eating breakfast. If you’re taking care of your body, why not fuel your mind as well?
What is one piece of advice you’d like to give to other men?
You are not alone. You do not have to be defined by your depression. You are so much more than your anxiety. You are a human being first, even before you are a man.
If you need support or professional help, don’t be afraid to seek it out — not only for yourself, but for the people in your life who love and care about you. Remember, asking for help is brave. Not asking for help is foolish and dangerous.
Fun fact about yourself:
I’m learning to play the guitar. I’ve been taking lessons for 18 months now and I absolutely love it. It has opened me up in so many ways — not only creatively and expressively, but it’s just plain fun. I plan on recording some of my own music this summer, and giving it to friends as a birthday gift. Now, that’s a unique present — something I’ve created makes for a one-of-a-kind gift from me to them.
One thing on your bucket list:
I want to live, work and surf in Costa Rica for a year with my family.
Anything else you want to share?
Take care of yourself. If you are reading this, I would invite you to fill in the blanks for the following statement:
___________________ is the only __________________ the world will ever know.
For example, for me it is: Scott Drosselmeier is the only Scott Drosselmeier the world will ever know.
That’s an amazing, fleeting opportunity.
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