May 1, 2023

Breaking the Stigma: A Discussion on Mental Health and Masculinity - with Freddy del Barrio

Breaking the Stigma: A Discussion on Mental Health and Masculinity - with Freddy del Barrio
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Trigger warning: this show discusses sensitive mental health topics.

In this episode of the podcast, Sunny invites guest speaker, Freddy Del Barrio, to delve into the heavy topics of mental health and drug abuse. Freddy shares his personal experience of losing his best friend, Raj, to a tragic encounter with the police due to untreated mental health issues and substance abuse. This heart-wrenching story highlights the need for more open conversations about mental health, especially among men and in the business community. Together, they discuss the challenges of coping with the sudden loss of loved ones to suicide and substance abuse and the importance of self-care in today's hustle culture.

The conversation delves into the generational and cultural aspects of mental health, highlighting the importance of raising awareness and creating safe spaces for these discussions. They also touch on the influence of social media on our mental health and the potential role of psychedelics in mental health treatment. Throughout the episode, they emphasize the importance of seeking help for mental health issues and not being afraid of medication.

This conversation is a powerful reminder of the impact of mental health and drug abuse on our lives and highlights the need for more resources and support for those struggling with these issues. Join us as we explore these important topics and share our hope for a future where mental health is treated with the attention and care it deserves.

Freddy's bio: "Alfredo (Freddy) del Barrio began his college career at The University of Texas at Austin’s McCombs Business School, where he found himself on the forefront of the tech boom. This experience led him to co-found companies like Campus Watch, Equity Genesis (now New Chip), and Easy Give. Freddy self-funded his own venture firm, RR Ventures, which now shares deal flow with Blackstone, and he sits on the boards of several early-stage startups. Beyond capital deployment, he has discovered a passion for providing strategic value to fledgling companies. Freddy splits his time between Austin and Aspen, enjoying running and investing in hospitality as side projects to keep Austin the thriving city he knows and loves."

Chapters:

(0:00:01) - Mental Health and Drug Abuse

(0:07:43) - Mental Health in a Masculine World

(0:13:02) - The Effects of Mental Health Neglect

(0:22:42) - Mental Health for Men

Chapter Summaries:

(0:00:01) - Mental Health and Drug Abuse (8 Minutes)

In this episode, we explore the impact of mental health and drug abuse, as our guest Freddy Del Barrio shares his personal experience of losing his best friend, Raj. Raj, who struggled with depression and feelings of paranoia, was tragically shot and killed by a police officer. Freddie discusses the importance of seeking treatment for mental health issues and the potential consequences of not addressing these problems. We also touch on the challenges of grief and the need for more open conversations about mental health, especially among men and in the business community.

(0:07:43) - Mental Health in a Masculine World (5 Minutes)

We delve into the challenges of coping with the sudden loss of friends to suicide and substance abuse, discussing the lack of resources available for men in particular. The conversation dives into the frustration, anger, and grief that arises from unanswered questions, as well as the need for more open conversations about mental health, especially in communities where it is often stigmatized or ignored. We also touch on the generational and cultural aspects of mental health, and the importance of continuing to raise awareness and create safe spaces for these discussions.

(0:13:02) - The Effects of Mental Health Neglect (10 Minutes)

We discuss the importance of self-care and the dangers of constant hustle culture, acknowledging that sometimes it's necessary to take time for ourselves. The importance of surrounding oneself with a supportive network and addressing mental health concerns in a controlled environment is emphasized.

(0:22:42) - Mental Health for Men (9 Minutes)

We tackle the influence of social media on our mental health and its potential to exacerbate insecurities and hinder self-awareness. The conversation highlights that social media can be weaponized and used as a crutch to show others that we're fine, even when we're not. We also discuss the importance of having a strong foundation, not being afraid of medication, and seeking help for mental health issues. Additionally, we touch upon the stigma surrounding mental health and men, emphasizing the need for open and honest conversations. Finally, we express hope for the future of mental health treatment and the potential role of psychedelics in that journey.

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Transcript

[00:00] Sunny: Welcome to Three Siblings, a podcast about life after loss and grief. We're the three siblings. Your hosts, Sonny, Tina and Michelle. On this show, we retell our stories to shine a light on tough family situations to help our listeners with issues they may be facing. Let's get into it. Our you. Welcome to the next episode. Thank you for all the amazing feedback. We've gone so far from our previous episodes. Our first guests will anthony. We've gotten amazing feedback and today I'm happy to have another guest, Freddie del Barrio. We're in Austin, Texas, and really excited about what we're going to talk about today. So a quick outline. We're going to let Freddie introduce himself. Then we're going to talk about him losing his best friend. And then finally we'll talk about the impact of drug abuse on one's mental health. So I'll let Freddie introduce himself.

[01:01] Freddy: Hi, guys. It's funny, these are some heavy, heavy topics, but just a little bit about me. I've lived in Austin, Texas, and worked in the tech and venture capital scene for the past ten years. And it's gotten me to meet a lot of interesting people. And I think it brought me to Sonny and what he's doing through some of our mutual friends. And once we got to talking and with what he's doing and with what I guess this podcast is doing, I was really grateful and fortunate for him to have invited me on because I think mental health, especially in the business community and for men especially, isn't talked about enough. And I'm just happy to maybe share my story and maybe some people that can resonate with some of you all.

[01:45] Sunny: Yeah, I appreciate it. And you said there's some heavy hitting topics, which they are, but I appreciate how you carry yourself on and are loving and caring for others.

[01:58] Freddy: Thank you.

[01:59] Sunny: And I love that you volunteered and decided to come on. I really appreciate it.

[02:04] Freddy: Yeah. So I guess we can get into the nitty gritty. Back in late November, 2022, my best friend, my best friend in Austin, I would consider him a brother, raj Munisingi. He was shot and killed by an APD officer. And if you guys look up his story in your spare time, it's gotten national and local news and it's been covered pretty extensively by The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, NBC Nightly News. And it's one of those tragic stories where it's hard to displace blame. You want to displace blame on the police officer and you want to be angry. Right? I spent a lot of time after that angry at Raj. I was like, why? I spoke to him for three and a half hours. The day before that, he came to Austin and I was like and he was struggling with his own mental health battles, with his bouts of depression, and I think he felt like he was always comparing himself. And I think we've caught ourselves as a society as a whole, completely comparing ourselves to others all the time. I'd consider myself a moderately successful guy, but there's always someone with a nicer house, nicer thing, and then you get intertwined as men that our goal is to just be the top, achievers the top of the world. And then it gets regurgitated via social media. And in our circles, and especially in technology and finance, it's all like this crazy rat race where everyone's doing so well and no one takes a step back to appreciate. And what I think happened to my friend Raj is I think he got caught comparing himself to his friends, like me, to his brothers, who run a very successful startup, a nine figure startup in town. And I think it slowly led him to start to doubt himself, doubt the people he was in relationships with. And I spoke to him for three and a half hours where he was worried that his girlfriend was cheating on him and his girlfriend shared a wall with him. And I was just like, Dude, just ******* stay in Hale. You're with your parents. There's no better place to be, I think sometimes when you're going through it than surrounded by the people you love. And he made the decision to fly down here and he was out and about. He was drinking, he was maybe dabbling in other narcotics, and that caused paranoia in him. And I wish he would have called me. He had recently purchased a firearm. And again, I'm all for gun rights, but people who struggle with mental health and drug and alcohol addiction, I believe at least there should be some kind of reform there. I mean, no one should have ever sold Roger Gunn, right, in my opinion, like someone who is dealing with feelings of paranoia and depression and it's hard to gauge, right? But then you throw in drugs and alcohol in the mix and he walks out of his front door with an assault rifle thinking that somebody's in his house. And truthfully, we don't know if anybody was there or not, but there is no evidence of someone being there. And all of that was sparked on the paranoia of, oh, is my girlfriend cheating on me? And Manically looking at his cameras and seeing her movements because they were neighbors, and him thinking someone was there. And he's speaking to someone, if you look at the camera footage and it's heartbreaking to see, and he's speaking to someone, thinking that he's protecting his home. But in reality, I think that he just had a momentary break and he fires a couple of shots into nothingness, into his own home. And he's standing in his front porch, not facing the officers. And before they even identify themselves as police or before they even finish saying, put the gun down, he has three or four rounds of rifle ammunition in him, and he died. He died that day. And it was a hard day, right. And I don't know if I'll ever be done grieving. I don't know if grief is a feeling that ever leaves you. I know you, Sonny, have experienced the loss of your family or of your parents, and I don't think grief ever leaves you, especially when it's tragic and you're young. And I feel for his family. Right. And so right now, they want to fight for his justice, but all of this could have been avoided so many times over. And I think base level, if we don't talk about the police training or the way that they did it or if Raj would have just calmed down and did some breath work, base level if he would have sought treatment for maybe some of the things that were ailing him, even on the basis of talk therapy. Maybe we don't end up in a situation where he's walking around with an assault rifle maniacally, viewing his cameras, thinking people have broken into his home and we still have him here with us. Right. So that's kind of just not my first real loss. But earlier in the year, one of my best friends called me, said he was having a heart attack. I think he was having a panic attack and then just walked out on his front porch and committed suicide. Right. And I was hanging out with him the night before, and you would have had no idea, right? And everyone tells these stories of, like, oh, my God, he seemed fine yesterday. And totally. We went to my buddy's rock show at Seaboise, and we had an amazing time. And, yeah, we had a late night and a few beers, but maybe a few too many. But he woke up stone cold sober military veteran, and he was dealing with health issues, but all the news was positive. And then he just kind of, I guess, snapped. And then you don't have answers, and so it just kind of leaves, like, a whole wake. And then to lose both Bruce, who committed suicide, and then Raj a few months later, even for me, I don't even know how to process as a man. Those resources for men aren't really out there. And I go see a talk therapist, and I'm not on any medications right now. Not that I am opposed to them, but the most therapeutic thing I do is go for a five mile run or something. But it's tough, and it was really hard for me to deal with and deal with that anger and grief because you want answers that you don't get, and it's like a revolving door of, like it's the secular nature of playing a game in your head, and it'll drive you nuts. And then what do you do? Just go fall into unhealthy habits myself with alcohol and drugs.

[08:53] Sunny: Right, yeah. No, I'm sorry that you had to go through that this past year. Like, you're saying that is very traumatic and I guess you didn't really expect it. And so it sort of startled you. Sometimes when someone passes away, you get that opportunity to finish with closure, which doesn't make things easier, but you get that closure. But in these situations, like you were saying, there's always questions that you'll have or things that you wish you could be answered and unfortunately we don't get that. And like you're saying, it's just a never ending game in your head.

[09:28] Freddy: Yeah. And what was going on in their heads. Right.

[09:30] Sunny: Yeah.

[09:31] Freddy: That's what I want to know is like, could we have gotten Raj into therapy and could he have talked out what was going on, what was bothering him? Could that have tapered back? Maybe the alcohol and drug consumption? Could he have been at some sort of baseline where we aren't doing drastic things like shooting into our house at midnight in a residential neighborhood on a ******* Monday. Right. And then how that affects the mental health of his mother and father who lost their youngest son, or all his other friends who lost a confidant, or his two brothers who lost their little brother, and how to help from there. Right. And I think now mental health is being talked about a lot. I think it's a lot more common because I think even five years ago you would have been ostracized to even talk about anxiety. You think back to our parents generation, or even when I was a kid feeling anxious, it's like, shut up, what is that? And it's ingrained to us as men too. Women too. Right. But especially as men, it's just kind of like we're taught toughen up and then we break and it's super sad to see and I'm really happy to see that more and more people, and people like you, Sonny, and your sisters are kind of opening up the conversation because it needs to be had. And I don't know if there's one solution and it still feels weird. I still don't feel comfortable. And even to my parents, I know you don't have yours, but for me to go to my Mexican American parents in their late fifty s and tell them like, I'm feeling a little depressed, they were going to be like, what are you talking about, kid? You drive a pork go to and it's funny. I think it's older generations and I think it's multicultural generations, definitely. I don't know what the white experience is like, but I do think it's much more accepted in the white community. I'm not sure in your heritage what that's look like.

[11:42] Sunny: Yeah, I know Chinese community especially I'm first generation, so my parents came from China. And so trying to live that American dream. Depression and anxiety seems like a weakness. So it's not talked about.

[11:57] Freddy: It's not talked about or almost like nonexistent.

[12:00] Sunny: Yeah. And I say that was a large contributor to my mom's eventual suicide because her friends and family didn't know how to talk about it with her. And I mean, we were kids. I was 15 through 19, through her depression. I didn't know what mental health was, so I didn't really know how to talk about it either. I think you've made some really good points about especially being a guy, and in the tech industry in Austin, where everything's flaunted, I guess, about being successful, very flaunted.

[12:34] Freddy: And it's like this grind nature of like and I'm sorry to take away from you no, but this whole, like this whole bullshit that people like, you need to be hustle. You be up at five and you need to go on a run, and then you got to take a cold shower and go in a cold plunge and then hit the gym, and then take your meetings and then meditate, and you need to crush your five year plan. And then you got to make some sales out of the door. And then you got to go out, and then you have to go out, and you have to be with a hot chick, and you have to take her home, and then you got to whatever. And what car are you driving? Are you a member of Soho House? Blah, blah, blah. It's like all of this **** where it's like, hey, hold on. When did all of this start being important? When did it start being more important than like, hey. And I'm not saying this should be every day, because if it's every day, then it may be depression. And I think that that's when you talk to someone, you medicate. But some days we just need to ourselves and some people more than others sometimes. Some days I cancel all my meetings and I'm just like, today, I'm not feeling it. And not because I'm hungover from the night before, but just like, you get caught up.

[13:45] Sunny: Yeah. I think in that grief sense, it's a lot of times for me, I related to social media. It's posting that picture perfect thing when my parents passes. I'm fine, I don't need help. I'm a guy. I'm having fun. Yeah. Getting bottles. I'm going on these fun trips because I'm fine. My mental health isn't bad right now. I'm doing great. And I think I think social media also plays a huge contributor to it.

[14:14] Freddy: It goes both ways. Yeah. You can use social media as a crutch to show people, don't check in on me, I'm totally fine, and you're confusing yourself at the same time. And then if you have, like, Insecurity, which is a whole other thing that I think people deal with mentally, then you should just see, like, oh, look at this guy. Wait, how old is he? He's my age and he's on a private jet. And how do you get there? Oh, he just sold his company. So it's so comparative. I think social media is dangerous. It's fun to have, and I like to use it as fodder hungover in bed, look at some memes and chuckle to myself with my instant gratification like a slot machine. But ultimately, I've toyed with the idea of just getting off social media completely. I really can't because of working in tech and VC, and I need to have a presence, and then we have the hospitality company. But limiting social media time, I think is vastly important. It's a cycle that is only in us to break. Right? So I guess the best thing is have a good foundation. Don't be scared of medication either, right? I mean, research it before you get on it, right? And there's a lot of better things, like if you're feeling down, go for a walk. As cheesy as that stuff sounds like giving yourself a minute and some fresh air. That'll change your day. That'll change your day. And if you take it day by day, like I have been, hopefully we end up better and more knowledgeable in helping people.

[15:52] Sunny: Yeah. On the medicine thing, an analogy my therapist and I always talk about is mental health is an actual sickness. Like how you go to the doctor if you have a sprained ankle. You need to go to the doctor if you have a mental health issue. And so we always say my mental health, my depression, my anxiety, it's like me having a sprained ankle. And so my medicine is like me on crutches. It's helping me be able to walk and function. But for me, the issues I've been recently dealing with is drinking too much, going out too much and drinking too much. And so with the mood stable, it affects mood Stablers. I'm on drinking, basically just kicks out the crutches from under me is the analogy we always say. And so I've seen how it can negatively affect my relationships and cause stuff that I don't want to happen because alcohol is involved. And so I recently did 50 days with no alcohol and since then just severely limited my alcohol because of it. And it's just been a nine day difference in trying to work on my relationships with people and trying to show that I want to improve and work on myself.

[17:08] Freddy: And you're healthier. I mean, obviously you're in good shape, you're in better shape, you feel better about yourself, you have more energy. And I think the world's kind of maybe not the world. I think our generation is moving towards a more limited alcohol approach. Maybe not the people we hang out with in Austin, Texas, however, but as a generation as a whole, which makes me hopeful. And I'm curious to see what the future of psychedelics holds in the mental health community, but I think we're a long ways from that completely being accepted. But that's what I'm excited to see. And it can't help Raj and it can't help Bruce, but hopefully it can help my ex and millions of other people out there and I think just starting the conversation like we are as dudes, you're 26, I'm 28, who can sit down and talk and be vulnerable with each other. We know each other and we know each other socially. But to open up about it and our struggles, that's rare. I think it's cool. I think it makes us stronger. Right? But if I go down to where I grew up, in McAllen, Texas, and I told them that I just did a podcast on mental health, they'll be like, what? What are you talking about? Are you sad or something? So it's funny. So breaking that stigma and kind of growing the community, I think is going to be a really interesting thing to see over the next few years.

[18:35] Sunny: Yeah. No, I agree. It's huge. And I appreciate being able to have this conversation. I think that's why we clicked when we were just out one night and the podcast came up and we just what's it about?

[18:47] Freddy: And then it just yeah, and we.

[18:48] Sunny: Just had a great conversation, a genuine conversation about it. And one time we were out late. This is a different story. I was out late and I was just talking to this guy, having a real conversation about the podcast and about life, and he's like, shouldn't you be going to try and talk to a chick and take her home? I was like, no, I really appreciate just having these conversations more than doing that type of stuff.

[19:12] Freddy: I am the same way as you are in regard to that. I think when I go out, finding real human connection, even if it's like with some older 50 something year old man or a very attractive woman, I think that real human connection and then growing what you're doing much more important about than just getting laid. And I have a feeling, Sonny, you don't have trouble in that department anyway, so it's okay.

[19:40] Sunny: But no, the guy thing, the guy stigma around guys is huge. So our listener base is probably 75, 80% female. So I appreciate you coming on and us having this conversation because, wow, it's huge. It just speaks volumes on there is an actual stigma around guys. They probably makes them uncomfortable to listen to stuff like this.

[20:00] Freddy: Absolutely. Or this bullshit, like TikTok ******* instagram, alpha male mentality, andrew Tate, whatever the ****. And also, look, I'm going to be honest, and I hope I don't get crucified, but I mean, I find the guy entertaining, right? But the rhetoric is dangerous for young men and men as a whole who just need to be like, shut the **** up and just do it. It is dangerous because that's not going to make you any better pushing things down, and you're not going to be of service to anybody else if you just push things down. Right? There's so much more to life than the material, right? And it's easy to say in my $2 million ******* house, right? But there's just so much more out there that I think men can achieve if they deal with their wounds in healthy ways and then have these conversations like you and I as men, instead of a bunch of in great neanderthals at the golf course talking about the ******* on the shik who checked us in. So I think these conversations are super cool and important, so I'm glad you're a part of bringing them to the forefront. And I'm happy you invited me on, man.

[21:17] Sunny: Thank you.

[21:18] Freddy: I appreciate it. I hope I was able to drop something of insight, if not experience.

[21:24] Sunny: No, I really enjoyed the conversation and it was great. So thank you again for coming on. I think audience will get a lot out of it, and being someone who's so successful and well known in Austin, I think it'll leave a great impact on people that listen well.

[21:42] Freddy: That's awesome, Sonny. Well, thank you.

[21:43] Sunny: Yeah, well, thanks again. I really appreciate it. And thank you to everyone who listened. Stay tuned for the next episode.

[22:10] Michele: Thank you for tuning in to the three siblings. We know we discuss some really tough topics on the show, so we want to make sure you've got the resources you need. If you're going through a tough time, dialing nine. Eight eight will bring you to a suicide and crisis phone line. If you want to support the work we're doing on the show, the best thing to do is to leave a review on Apple podcasts. It might help someone else who needs to hear this and find this show. You can also follow us on social media at Three Siblings podcasts on Instagram, and at siblingspodcasts on Twitter. We are so excited to share more stories with you in our next episode.