Mental health matters every bit as much as physical health. While many men seek medical attention when their physical bodies don’t function properly, though, far fewer seek help when they feel depressed or anxious. Given the current epidemic level of suicide, especially in the U.S., it’s well past time that we address the issue men’s mental health.
When men certainly suffer from mental health woes, they express their distress differently than women do. Learning how to recognize the signs of mental illness, particularly in men, is half the battle. The other half is encouraging men to reach out for help. June is Men’s Health Month, so let’s raise our voices about important men’s mental health issues to show our support.
Toxic Masculinity and the Stigma of Mental Health Issues
Particularly in the U.S., we often see being “manly” as pulling yourself up by your bootstraps, powering through obstacles, and never admitting weakness or doubt. The Western ideal of rugged individualism pressures many men to keep their emotions tightly under wraps.
Additionally, men tend to manifest their depression differently than women do. Whereas women are more likely to admit to feeling sad or hopeless, men tend to become irritable and aggressive. As they sink deeper into depression, women may cry more, while men will often argue.
Men also tend to engage in risky behaviors when they feel depressed or anxious. Some overeat compulsively, while others turn to substance abuse. They may smoke cigarettes, drink excessively, or abuse prescription or street drugs.
The continuing stigma surrounding mental health issues further complicates men’s reluctance to speak up about life with mental illness. Many people, particularly men, believe that admitting that they struggle with mental illness tantamount to admitting that they are weak. Nothing could be further from the truth, though. Admitting that you battle depression or anxiety shows courage and strength, but many men feel the pressure to maintain that mental illness is just “psychological mumbo-jumbo.”
How to Help a Man in Crisis
If you fear that a man in your life may struggle with mental health issues, pay attention to their warning signs, and reach out to them. While women do attempt suicide more often, men are more likely to complete the act. Because depression makes people feel like they’re all alone, simply letting men know that someone cares will help them significantly.
Set up a private time to talk with the man in your life who may be struggling, and choose a safe, neutral location, like a coffee shop or a beach. As you begin the conversation, emphasize your love and concern. Invite your male friend or colleague to open up about their feelings, and listen without judgment.
Encourage the man you love to seek professional help. Unless you’re a licensed therapist, refrain from offering advice unless you’re sharing contacts for professionals who have helped you in the past. Reassure them that asking for help shows strength, not weakness. Often, men develop depression after a job loss or a period of financial stress. If money is tight, point them toward free online or in-person support groups.
If substance abuse is an issue, groups like Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous can help. These programs run on a donation-only basis, so even those who struggle financially can find help. These groups welcome caregivers, too, so offer to accompany that special guy to a meeting to help ease his jitters.
Mental Health Matters for Men, Too
Many men are reluctant to ask for help when they feel depressed or anxious. For Men’s Health Month this June, be sure to show compassion, amplify your voice, and raise awareness about the high suicide risk in men and the unique mental health problems they struggle with. Everyone, regardless of gender, deserves the care and support they need to live their best life.