Why Men Need to Speak Out About Mental Health
While mental health is something that affects everyone, it has a particular effect on men that often goes undiscussed. Most notably, men who struggle with a condition usually don’t reveal their emotions in a way loved one can recognize. For example, a man who is depressed may act out in anger rather than sadness.
One of the biggest issues facing men is the stigma they face concerning mental health. “I think part of it may be this macho thing,” Dr. Raymond Hobbs, a physician consultant at Blue Cross Shield of Michigan, said to Healthline. “A lot of guys don’t want to admit they have this problem. They see depression as a sign of weakness.”
Unfortunately, due to this stigma, men often let their mental health go untreated. And this has a number of consequences that go without saying.
Throughout this article, we’re going to explore the significance of mental health among men and why it’s important for them to speak out.
What Do the Statistics Say?
Even though men are less likely to find treatment for mental health, they’re more likely to struggle with it than women. Here are some statistics:
According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, the suicide rate was 3.54% higher among men than women in 2017.
Mental Health America reports that nearly 6 million men handle depression within the United States every year.
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 62,000 men die from alcohol-related causes every year. That’s compared to 26,000 women.
Men are 2 to 3 times more likely to abuse drugs in comparison to women.
- Depression and suicide are believed to be the leading cause of death among men.
These statistics aren’t to claim one side of the gender spectrum has it worse than the other. Rather, they’re to pinpoint the significance of mental health among men.
The Mental Health Stigma
One of the biggest problems men face is the current stigma behind mental health. Conditions such as anxiety and depression are often viewed as personal issues. However, research has found that they’re actually caused by chemical changes. For this reason, they impact our brains in similar ways to how physical conditions impact our bodies.
“There is work for us to do as a society regarding the stigma of asking for help,” Zach Levin of the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation told Healthline. “While we have done a much better job of reducing stigma and expanding opportunities for support, men still may be experiencing shame and guilt that could lead to them being less willing to ask for help.”
This stigma Levin speaks about has much to do with masculinity. Just like femininity, there are good and bad masculine traits. Unfortunately, society has taught men to embrace a lot of their negative masculine traits - including holding back emotions and remaining quiet in certain situations.
In fact, it’s widely believed among mental health professionals that one of the reasons men hold back from treatment is due to their ideas of masculinity. Not to mention, these ideas are also feeding into various conditions, such as depression.
Due to these two factors, men often find themselves in a negative feedback loop. By not treating their illness, they instead fuel the condition to a point where it worsens. The deeper it worsens, the more difficult it becomes for them to handle on their own. As you can see, this cycle can easily spiral out of control.
To take things further, some men may turn to self-coping mechanisms that can actually harm their condition, such as using drugs or alcohol and indulging in unsafe sexual activity.
What Can We Do?
If you have a man in your life who you believe struggles with mental illness, there are a number of steps you can take to ensure their treatment.
To begin, it’s vital you end the stigma behind asking for help. As we’ve discussed, this is one of the leading reasons men face debilitating mental health conditions and have record-breaking statistics.
“We can all foster more transparency around mental health and substance abuse issues,” Levin told Healthline. “No one is immune to stress. Talking with others about how it is affecting you can foster empathy, camaraderie, and support - all of which fight against the feelings of isolation on which addiction and mental health issues can thrive.”
With this transparency, it’s also important for us to educate ourselves on mental health. A big issue facing those who struggle with conditions is not many people understand what’s happening. There’s a lack of realizing that these are medical problems.
If we can be aware of mental illness, educate ourselves, and promote to men in our lives the notion that they have a right to speak out, a lot of change can be made.
Written by: Paul James