Updated: Oct 7, 2021
As Men’s Health Month is fast approaching, it’s an opportune time to talk about something that society fails to talk about more often—men’s mental health. The stigma surrounding men’s mental health has always been present and often unacknowledged. What’s worse is that men have great difficulty talking about mental health and well-being due to societal pressure about appearing tough and masculine.
The stigma surrounding men’s mental health results in men having great difficulty finding a safe place to express their inner struggles, without feeling judged. We work with many men at Ward & Associates and we know that speaking to a trusted individual can work wonders for men who are struggling with their mental health. Let’s explore why there is so much stigma in the area of men’s mental health and why it’s essential to talk about it.
Why Don’t Men Talk About Mental Health?
If we look at the current societal expectations and traditional gender roles, both play a role in why men are less likely to open up and discuss any issues concerning their mental health. We are all well aware of the idea that “women should behave or look in a certain way” is a gender stereotype that can be very damaging to women. But what we often overlook is that men can also be damaged by gender stereotypes and expectations too.
The stereotype of being a breadwinner and a strong, dominant presence in society can lead some men to feel insecure and like a failure, if they don’t relate to these traits. It’s hard to reach out for help and support when one is in this state of mind.
Some researchers suggest that men who can’t speak openly about their emotions are less likely to recognize that they have mental health symptoms themselves. Aaron Rochlen, Ph.D., a psychologist from the University of Texas, has even found that those men who need mental health services the most are the ones that are least interested in getting help from a mental health counsellor.
Is Depression Different for Men?
How depression manifests is always different in every individual, and there’s no such thing as a gender-specific type of depression. However, it is common for men to have difficulty recognizing that they might be depressed, have a harder time talking about it and often resist the treatment for it as well.
The traditional assumption regarding gender and mental health is that girls and women are more susceptible to exhibiting “internalizing” disorders like anxiety and depression. On the other hand, boys and men tend to have an increased risk of having “externalizing” disorders like aggressive behaviour and substance abuse. While there might be some truth to these patterns, it’s important to recognize that men experience anxiety, depression, posttraumatic stress and many other mental health struggles, just like women.
When Is It Time to Ask for Help?
Despite the stigma and the barriers that exist for men who struggle to open up and deal with their feelings, there is still hope for men to overcome their mental and emotional problems. If you’re worried that someone you care about may be struggling, or if you think that you need help, you can look for these signs that indicate you need outside assistance:
Shifting performance at work
The feeling of sadness, hopelessness, and a loss of pleasure
Physical symptoms like headaches and stomach issues
If you recognize any of these issues in yourself or a loved one, asking for help can be a sign of strength rather than weakness. It’s okay to ask for help, and recognizing the need for it is the first step to being well again.
Although mental health affects all genders, it is oftentimes overlooked in men. Not a lot of people talk about men’s mental health because of the cultural stigma surrounding it. Years of research have dubbed it as a “silent epidemic” in men. While it may be overwhelmingly difficult to recognize the need to seek help from others, it is only by acknowledging that the issue exists that men can start accepting and seeking outside help.
If you know someone who needs help dealing with their feelings and emotions, turn to Ward & Associates Psychological Services. We provide many forms of counselling, including helping men through mood changes, anger, anxiety and more.