"There’s a common misconception that we need to ‘tough it out’ when facing mental health challenges,” he said. “That doesn’t always work, because strength isn’t just physical."
Scott Scharmann’s definition of strength was forged through significant life changes, through which he learned that mental health is just as important as physical.
“There’s a common misconception that we need to ‘tough it out’ when facing mental health challenges,” he said. “That doesn’t always work, because strength isn’t just physical.”
Scharmann said he came to terms with this fact around the time he began working as a facilities coordinator at Livermore last year. He was excited to join the Laboratory, recalling, “My father told me I wasn’t just starting a job here, but a career.”
However, a whirlwind of complicated situations compounded the transition.
“I was in a tough spot. I was struggling with a divorce, caring for two very young children and starting a new job at the same time,” he said. “And then, only weeks later, the pandemic began. Life as I knew it had fallen apart almost overnight.”
Born and raised in Manteca, Scharmann was involved in athletics during his childhood, which provided him with some key coping mechanisms: strength, persistence and resilience.
“I thought to myself what many men surely have: ‘I’m going to have to power through,” he said. “I’ll have to sort this out on my own.”
Scharmann soon learned that this approach to some challenges is not always effective, and when it comes to mental health, it can actually lead to further damage.
In this case, Scharmann soon found himself stretched to the limit, to the detriment of his health. As the stress became unmanageable, figuring out how to address the issue while still fulfilling all of his obligations posed another challenge.
“I recognized that I needed help, but there was an invisible—yet very real—hurdle to cross before I spoke up,” he said.
One day, Scharmann was talking with a friend who confided that he’d consulted a therapist to help work through his own mental struggles.
“Hearing this from someone that I think highly of convinced me that reaching out for assistance was the right thing to do,” Scharmann said.
He contacted the Lab’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP), who put him in touch with a telehealth therapist. Scharmann said that after working with a mental health specialist, he is better able to direct his focus to what matters most.
“Initially I was doubtful about the benefits of opening up and telling my story to someone I had never met,” he said. “I was hesitant to make the phone call. A year and a half later, however, I can’t imagine not taking advantage of this resource. I simply wouldn’t be where I am today without it.”
As Scharmann can attest based on his own experiences, the expectation of embarrassment or shame when discussing mental health topics often prevents those who need support from seeking it – especially for men who feel they can’t show emotional vulnerability without it being perceived as weakness or defeat.
Scharmann’s experience has convinced him that such topics are crucial to discuss, rather than suffer through in silence.
“Recognizing that strength isn’t only physical, but mental as well, has allowed me to find myself again,” he said. “I’ve become a better father, a better husband and a better person in general. Asking for help makes a difference, not just for yourself, but for those around you, those who matter most to you.”
Today, Scharmann has settled into his role at the Laboratory helping to coordinate building work to minimize impact to programs while maintaining facility and employee safety. Off hours, he enjoys camping, helping to run a girls’ softball league in Manteca and spending time with his family. He welcomed a child into his family in March of 2023.
To learn more about the Lab’s Employee Assistance Program, visit: https://eap.llnl.gov/