ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — A few years ago Jeff Hoffman’s mental health was at the end of the line. He was going through a divorce, drinking, and fighting off thoughts of suicide. He says as a man, he felt it hard to express his feelings. 

“Men generally aren’t very good at opening up and connecting. And there was a point in my life where I felt invisible,” he says.

Hoffman said he wanted to start a place for men to open up and be able to share thoughts with one another. 

“I knew that if I could make it through this, there were many other guys that were experiencing the same thing,” says Hoffman.

Hoffman started “Visible Man” — a way to help prevent male suicide, provide education, and help to those in crisis. He says men face barriers to self-expression and sharing thoughts. 

Image from one of Hoffman’s podcasts on the VM website

“I think it’s a combination of how we’re raised…” He also says culturally things can get in the way. The sort of ‘toughen up, and move forward’ mindset.

It’s something Laura Stradley with the Veterans Outreach Center says all service members can suffer from. “You are really encouraged not to feel emotions, not to express those emotions,” says Stradley.

She says talking about how you feel can get you kicked off the mission or even separated from service. 

“That’s not natural. We do need to be able to feel and express emotions, especially when we’ve endured very difficult circumstances,” she says.

With the veteran suicide rate still hanging at around 20 per day nationally, Stradley says groups like ‘Visible Man’, and what the VOC offers, can help.

Hoffman says a disproportionate amount of stigma around mental illness is present in military culture. He says the mission of ‘Visible Man’ boils down to two things and has something for everyone: “Finding a reason to be here tomorrow and finding some strength,” he says.

“Visible Man” is hosting a fundraiser show at the Comedy at the Carlson on Sunday, July 24th. It costs $20 to attend and will feature comics Dan Viola and Vinnie Paulino.