As we approach mid-June, many people are busy winding down from Memorial Day, celebrating Pride, or preparing for Father’s Day. However, June is also National Men’s Health Awareness month.
Mental health can affect anyone at any point in their life and while many stigmas surrounding mental health are regressing, it still exists⎼ especially for men. We cannot remove mental health stigma without addressing the stigma against men’s mental health.
You see, women are more likely to be diagnosed with a mental health disorder compared to men. However, this is because women are more likely to reach out for support or seek professional help when they are struggling. Men tend to “suffer in silence” which can lead to drug and/or alcohol abuse, severe depression, and even suicide.
Depression and suicide are actually ranked as leading causes of death among men, but they are still far less likely to seek mental health treatment than women. According to Healthline, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention found that men died by suicide at a rate of 3.54% higher than women in 2017.
Mental Health America reported that six-million men are affected by depression in the United States every single year. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism found the annual number of men dying due to alcohol-related causes is 62,000, compared to 26,000 women. Men are also two to three times more likely to misuse drugs than women.
But why do many men avoid seeking support or professional help for their mental health conditions? I’m sure many of you can agree that there is a typical societal pressure put on them to “toughen up” and just deal with their feelings of pain, frustration, anger, or self-hate that cause stigma and allow these conditions to go undiagnosed.
I think it is critical to help destigmatize men’s mental health, so I’ve compiled a list of conditions and symptoms to look out for in the men in your life (or yourself!) as well as things we should normalize and why some people have a harder time opening up than others.
The 5 most common men’s mental health disorders
- Depression: Men with depression typically show aggression and irritability, disinterest in work or hobbies, and sleep issues.
- Substance abuse: Around 16% of men have alcohol use disorder, and 23% of males older than 12 reported illegal drug use in 2020.
- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): Men can experience trauma in many ways, including work-induced trauma common in some occupations such as law enforcement, emergency response, and military combat.
- Anxiety disorders: Men with anxiety disorders may appear irritable, worried, or tense as well as show physical symptoms caused by anxiety.
- Schizophrenia: Males often have an earlier onset of schizophrenia than women and are thought to be more likely to develop it.
These 5 mental health disorders can have the following symptoms in men:
- Aggression and violence
- High-risk activities
- Substance abuse
- Physical issues such as chronic headaches and stomachaches
- Feelings of restlessness and difficulty focusing
- Appetite and weight changes
- Obsessive thinking
There are a few things I think we should normalize for men’s mental health so that they can feel comfortable getting help when their conditions are more severe. First, let them cry without them feeling like they are being “weak”. It’s 2022. Stop invalidating people for their emotions because you emote differently than them. Take problems and issues seriously, and don’t brush people off when they open up to you.
I also suggest offering praise and compliments for values, work, humor, fashion, etc… and certainly be proud of men when they go to therapy. Recognize hard work and effort. Do not judge a man for the way he dresses, including if he dresses “femininely”. Finally, remind the men in your life that they have value beyond their work and achievements.
Furthermore, in general, some people find it harder to open up to others. This can be due to several reasons such as not feeling safe when talking about their issues, not knowing if the other person will understand or listen, not wanting to draw attention to themselves, getting cut off, or hear unsolicited advice, or being afraid to open the floodgates causing them to break down.
If you suspect that someone is going through an ordeal but they still say that they’re okay, try asking specific questions like “Has there been anything bothering you recently?” instead of a generic phrase like “How are you?” or “Are you okay?” Those are loaded questions that people usually respond to with “I’m fine.”
This month, try to encourage the men in your life to take care of themselves and show them you are there to help them. Encourage them to take care of their bodies by eating right, exercising, and working on ways to prevent physical and mental conditions.