What better time to open up a dialogue about men’s mental health than during June, Men’s Health Month and the month of Father’s Day?
Men suffer mental illness at similar rates as women do, but they are far less likely to seek help. The consequences of allowing it to go untreated can be tragic.
Many less known reasons why men don’t talk about mental health and even hesitate to seek help exists when they feel depressed, anxious or otherwise not themselves. Some stem from cultural expectations surrounding what it means to be masculine, while others are due to the lack of money or health insurance.
Sometimes, men don’t recognize the signs that something is wrong or know where to turn for help if they do.
Here are a few reasons why don’t men ask for mental health help.
1. Many confuse mental health needs with weakness
Your brain is an organ, and like any other, it can fall ill.
However, men are told to “suck it up” when it comes to physical pain. Is it any wonder that if they recognize the signs of mental illness in themselves, they refuse to seek help?
The term “toxic masculinity” refers to the way our society imposes stereotypes of how a man should act. Men are told they should maintain a stoic demeanor even when faced with crushing circumstances. Boys grow up watching movies in which heroes suffer broken limbs and other serious injuries, not with tears of pain, but a wisecrack and a smile.
They learn early that admitting pain is synonymous with weakness.
Changing this stereotype will take time, but if you fear a man you love may have a mental illness, make sure to have a discussion.
- Reassure them asking for help demonstrates strength, not weakness.
- Share stories of famous tough guys like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, who recently detailed his struggle with depression publicly, and so on.
2. Economic factors complicate matters
In the traditional family system, men went out and earned a paycheck while women stayed home to raise the family.
However, decades of wage stagnation have made it increasingly difficult for people to survive on one income alone. Men born 40 years ago grew up in a world where their fathers could afford to buy a home even if they never graduated from high school, something far fewer young adults today can manage unless they came from a privileged background and inherited a tidy sum.
Researchers have found a direct correlation between poverty levels and suicide rates.
Suicide has grown into such a widespread issue that health care providers must continually update risk assessments to screen for ideation. If you fear a man you love is contemplating suicide, especially if they’ve recently lost a job or experienced some other misfortune, learn the signs and aid them in finding help.
3. Changing family systems lead to despair
More men today grew up in single-parent homes than ever before. Boys raised in these households run a higher risk of developing mental illness.
Additionally, although it’s no longer true that half of all marriages end in divorce, a large number of them do. The legal system changes slowly, and courts still maintain a bias toward women in custody cases.
Losing contact with children can cause men to spiral into despair.
4. Men may not recognize the signs
Men express disorders like depression and anxiety differently than women do.
Whereas women tend to direct their grief inward and use words like “sad” or “depressed,” men tend to become more irritable than usual.
Here are other signs of mental health trouble to look for in the special guy you love –
- Loss of energy – Energy loss can stem from many reasons, but depression is a common cause.
- Loss of interest in previously enjoyable activities – Men with depression and anxiety may quit their weekend softball league or skip out on family gatherings to stay home and watch TV. They also tend to lose interest in sex.
- Anger and outbursts – Men who don’t recognize signs of depression often need to be handled with kid gloves to avoid an outburst.
- Substance abuse – Men tend to self-medicate with drugs and booze. They may also participate in high-risk behaviors like speeding and weaving in and out of cars on the freeway.
If you see these signs, have a heart-to-heart talk. Offer to help them find a therapist or psychiatrist. If you fear they may harm themselves, you can call the National Suicide Hotline and ask one of its trained counselors for advice.
5. They may not know where to turn for help
Share resources with your loved one, such as how texting 741741 can put them in touch with an anonymous support person whom they can discreetly contact for aid.
Accompany them to a doctor’s appointment for a referral to mental health services and hold their hand as they discuss possible treatments.
Shedding light on male mental health issues
Many men hesitate to address mental health issues, but doing so can greatly improve their quality of life.
If a man you know is hurting, help him find the care he needs to recover. You may just save a life.