How to Destigmatize Men’s Mental Health
Facts, Statistics, and Tips to Support Men’s Mental Health
Mental health can affect anyone at any point in their life, and while society is gradually opening up to having more discussions about mental health there are still people who feel they cannot talk about their mental health because of stigmatization. This article will discuss some facts and statistics about men's mental health, how men are affected differently than women, stigma surrounding men's mental health, and lastly, where to turn for support.
Women are more likely to be diagnosed with a mental health disorder compared to men, which may not be surprising given the fact women are more likely to reach out for support and seek therapy from a professional when they are struggling. Men are more likely to "suffer in silence", which may lead to drug and/or alcohol abuse, severe depression, and even suicide. Men are also less likely to ask for help from either their family doctor, a friend, or a mental health professional.
Mental Health Challenges: Symptoms in Men
There are a number of factors which increase the risk of someone developing a mental illness, including but not limited to: being a veteran, a member of a minority group (e.g., First Nations/Native, gay and bisexual), and living in remote or rural areas, to name a few (Whitley, 2017).
Mental health affects men and women differently (Mayo Clinic, 2019), and men can show symptoms which are not as easily recognized as symptoms of depression in women. Like women who are experiencing depression, men may also:
Experience sadness, hopelessness, or feel empty
Be extremely tired
Have irregular sleep habits, such as sleeping too much or too little
Lose enjoyment in their previously-enjoyed activities
Other behaviors which would be a sign of depression in men, which are often not recognized, include:
Spending a lot of time at work or on sports
Physical complaints: headaches, stomach problems, unexplained pain
Noticeable increase in alcohol or drug use
Irritability, anger, or short tempered
Risk-taking, such as reckless driving
Overall, men are more likely to complain about physical symptoms of depression which then leads them to visit their doctor. If you have a depressive episode the likelihood you will have a subsequent depressive episode increases each time.
Specific Mental Health Challenges for Men
There are a number of unique issues and pressures men face, such as feeling like they must fill traditional roles like being the main moneymaker of the family and show masculine behaviors like strength and self-control at home and at the workplace. Men are less likely to actually recognize depression compared to women, and when they do recognize the signs they tend to downplay their symptoms and underreport their symptoms of depression, so they are less likely to seek help. Minority stress results when men face mental health disparities as a result of stigmatization and the lack of support alongside other factors. In a survey conducted by Priory, they found that 77% of men suffered from anxiety, stress, or depression, with 22% of respondents saying they would not feel comfortable talking to their doctor or any other professional about mental health because they worried it would waste their time.
Mental Health Conditions and How They Affect Men Differently Than Women
Generally speaking, women report experiencing more mental health conditions than men. Because men are less likely to admit to struggling with mental health (NIMH, 2007), they are also less likely to end up in therapy. According to men's mental health statistics, nearly 6 million men are estimated to struggle with depression every year, and 75 percent of suicide victims in the United States are male (Whitley, 2017). Men between the ages of 35 and 64 have the highest number of suicides of any age group, which is more than twice the national average (NIMH, 2020). Men are also 3.5 times more likely to die by suicide than women. On average one man takes his own life every 20 minutes.
Men's Health Forum states 73% of adults who "go missing" are men, and 87% of homeless people are men. When we look at the penal system, men make up 95% of the prison population and nearly 75% of those men suffer from two or more mental disorders. Men are much more likely to develop a substance abuse problem; in fact, men are three times more likely to abuse alcohol or drugs compared to women (Counselling DIrectory, 2020).
When feelings of depression start to rise, quite often substance abuse follows. Because men are less likely to ask for help when they are feeling depressed, they turn to drugs or alcohol to cope and to numb the pain.
Part of the stigma surrounding men's mental health comes from other men; men are taught to be strong and masculine, and they do not want to admit they have a problem. For many men, depression is a sign of weakness. While we are well aware that depression can result from chemical changes in the brain, Dr. Raymond Hobbs points out that many people still do not look at it that way. Instead, they see mental illness as a personal issue and a lack of strength. This results in mental health awareness and support for men not taken seriously.
Treatment and Hope
Reading all of this information about mental illness and the profound effect it can have on men's lives is not an easy read. Especially during the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting challenges such as lockdown situations, your mental health concerns do not need to be ignored. The good news is there is help available for yourself or for a loved one in your life who is affected by mental illness or any challenging issues.
Many men will believe the idea that they should be strong enough to handle all of their own problems without talking to someone else about it. The first thing you should know is that it is okay to ask for help. There is nothing wrong with getting support.
Several support groups now support and promote mental health awareness for men, and facts show that men who have received support also have been volunteering to help spread further support and awareness.
Movember is an annual event marked every November to help raise awareness and support for men's mental health and other men's issues including men's suicide prevention.
Talking to someone who can help, whether that is a family doctor or a therapy, can help ease the stress you are feeling and start you on the path to feeling better. Learning healthy coping skills can also help ease the pain you are feeling. The following tips may also help:
Set realistic goals for yourself and prioritize tasks that you want to do throughout the day.
Look for emotional support from a partner, family member, or friend. Practice making social connections so you can get involved in different activities.
Practice good self-care strategies by doing things you enjoy, such as sports, fishing, or other hobbies. Set aside time to take part in these activities as a way to manage stress and relax yourself.
Take care of your physical health as well as your emotional health. Practice good sleep habits, limit your caffeine intake, and do some light exercise each day to stay physically healthy.
Lastly, speak to a mental health professional in your community or right here on 7 Cups. The hardest part of recovery can be the initial step of reaching out for help. But once you take that first step you are no longer alone in your struggle, you have support from friends and family and people who care about you.
For a lighthearted take on this serious issue, check out the video shared by Clay Tall Stories.