Studies show 1 in 10 men experience depression and anxiety but less than half of them seek help. Even though mental health issues affect a significant number of men, there is still much we can do to create a supportive culture for men that are hesitant to admit they need help.
One of the main reasons men avoid facing mental health issues is toxic masculinity – where traditional masculine traits are rebranded with harmful associations from societal ideas and stereotypes. This may include traits such as, self-reliance being portrayed as men don’t need help from others; or that men should be powerful without embracing the strength of vulnerability; and that men should be stoic, because it is perceived as weakness to be emotional or in touch with your feelings. Consider the classic Hollywood portrayal of men – most leading male characters are strong, powerful and don’t need – or ask for help. Studies show that men who hold fast to these types of ideals tend to have worse mental health outcomes and are less likely to seek help.
Men are hesitant to seek care for any health condition – physical or emotional. But they are even less likely to seek help for mental health conditions because these may be viewed as being less serious or unreal. Unlike a physical injury – such as a broken ankle – mental health conditions often do not have overt physical symptoms. A person may look normal on the outside while suffering on the inside. It’s important to remember that just because you can’t see it, it doesn’t mean it’s not real.
When it comes to mental health issues, men have a tendency to act out, while women tend to internalize. This is the primary reason men tend to have higher rates of alcohol and substance abuse and use more lethal means to commit suicide. From an early age, boys are taught to “act like a man” and are inundated with messages that aggression and risk-taking are part of masculinity. Consequently, men display more antisocial and defiant behaviors when they are suffering. Perhaps we can lay the foundation of mental health support in our culture by teaching boys the value of being comfortable with emotions as they journey into adulthood.
Additional signs and symptoms include:
- Mood changes
- Anger, irritability
- Short-tempered responses
- Loss of pleasure from things that normally provide enjoyment
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Changes in work performance
- Weight fluctuations
- Feeling more stressed or anxious
- Increased Isolation and withdrawal from friends
- Headaches or stomachaches
- Self harm
We need to flip the script and let men know that asking for help is courageous and an indicator of confidence in knowing oneself. Men, show strength and tell someone if you’ve been experiencing some of the symptoms above and are concerned you may need help for a mental health issue. A great place to start is by making an appointment with your primary care provider or a licensed mental health therapist. If you’re not quite ready to talk to a health care provider, start by talking with your partner or a trusted friend.
You might also consider online screening tools. For example, Edward-Elmhurst Health offers online risk assessments to help people find out if they meet the criteria for depression or anxiety and get information about next steps.
Linden Oaks Behavioral Health helps men feel understood by connecting them with male psychiatrists, therapists and other providers. With our help, you can learn more about your condition, reduce symptoms, develop coping strategies and improve your quality of life. To schedule a confidential behavioral health assessment, visit us online or call 630-305-5027.