Men’s Mental Health Month: Addressing Male Stereotypes
Let us be the first to wish you a happy and healthy Father’s Day!
Fittingly, June is Men’s Mental Health Month, which is no simple topic to tackle. Today, 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. is affected by mental illness, which includes more than 6 million men each year. And yet, many men do not seek help or treatment for disorders like depression or anxiety.
Boys Don’t Cry
Mental health organizations like NAMI have made strides in the education and conversation around mental health to reduce stigma, but stereotypical expectations of the tough male persona still exist. This can deter seeking help or treatment.
Many men are still taught from an early age to “be strong” and hold back emotions, which can damage coping skills and the ability to process emotions. Additionally, men often struggle to connect on an emotional level since vulnerability is discouraged. Because people around them are less likely to be supportive, they keep quiet, or if they do speak up, they suffer additional trauma when friends are not responsive.
There are other reasons why depression in men is underreported. First, because emotional articulation is not valued in the traditional male role, talking about what is wrong is often more difficult. Lacking adequate tools to talk through what they are dealing with compounds feelings of failure, adds distress to their experience and can make determining accurate diagnoses more difficult.
Symptoms of Depression in Men
It is important to recognize that depression often presents different symptoms in men than it does in women. Instead of sadness, men often experience:
- Difficulty sleeping
- Loss of interest in typical activities
The Danger of Stereotypes
The months of April through June are actually particularly high risk for suicide, so it is an especially important time to check in with friends and loved ones. Suicide is the #2 cause of death in men under age 44, with rates on the rise for middle-aged men. Overall, men account for 70% of all suicides. It is critical to break the cycle of silence for today’s youth and to continue to educate men in our communities about the causes and dangers of untreated depression.
Depression is not caused by weakness or a lack of determination. It is often a combination of brain function, such as mood regulation, paired with other factors such as medical conditions, high levels of stress or medications.
Men often get caught in a frustrating dichotomy: The behaviors driven by depression can lead to strife that impacts both their personal and professional lives. However, that vulnerability can also lead to social isolation, a perception of losing their standing or have professional ramifications as well.
What We Can Do
We have the opportunity every day to continue to fight stigma. We can cultivate an environment for our sons that allows their emotional growth to flourish. We must check in on the men in our lives with open and honest dialogue, and encourage them to talk about their emotional and mental well-being. We can encourage healthy habits that support good mental health including, sleep, exercise and proper nutrition. We can ensure they have information about resources available and offer to accompany them. We can follow up.
In our communities, we can advocate for better access to mental health resources, including confidential workplace services.
If you need or someone you know needs help, there are resources available:
- Talk with your doctor.
- Ask your employer about assistance programs.
- Consider a NAMI support group for those living with mental disorders and their loved ones.
Contact the NAMI HelpLine, which offers peer support and resource referrals: 1-800-950-6264.