Updated: Jul 17
Have you ever heard the saying that men have to be strong, they shouldn't show weaknesses, or heard someone say 'man up' when a guy shows how they are feeling? Sure, we could argue that stereotypes like these are simply an innocent attempt to make guys seem to be more predictable. However, are these innocent words as harmless as we believe?
To commemorate the upcoming Mental Health Month in May, we need to talk about the elephant in the room: men's mental health.
Why is Men's Mental Health important?
The male stereotypes above are merely unrealistic expectations that our society puts on our male counterparts. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), 16.3% of mental health problem sufferers are men. Statistically speaking, that might not seem like a lot. However, the staggering revelation is that the numbers of men dying from suicide are four times higher than women, and yet, they are less than likely to seek professional help.
Now that we know men could have mental health problems, why are many men prefer to stay silent? The answer lies in men trying to fulfill the stereotypical gender expectations I mentioned at the beginning of this article.
The Price of Silence
Although sometimes we think that time will heal all, sweeping our mental health concerns under the rug is not productive. Talking about mental health issues and not downplaying our symptoms would lead to proper diagnosis and treatment. Hence, it would prevent our mental health condition from developing additional health concerns.
What is the Difference between Mental Health in Men and Women?
According to American Psychological Associations (APA), while anxiety and depression are found mostly in females, men's mental health is embodied as substance abuse or antisocial disorder. This perhaps the contributing factor that misleads the general population about the non-existing mental health issues in men. In reality, there is a broad spectrum of what classifies as mental health disorders other than the most commonly known mental health problems.
Other Rarely Discussed Mental Medical Conditions in Men
It is true that there are more females with depression than men, but that doesn't mean men who have depression aren't there. Yearly, over 6 million men suffer from depression in the United States alone. Depression could have a higher fatality rate for men because of its' potential to contribute to physical health issues and become a risk factor for suicide. Substance abuse is, in fact, one of the common side effects of depression in men stemming from increased risk-taking behavior as an effort to 'escape' the unpleasant feeling, along with aggression and sudden bursts of anger.
14% of men in the United States have anxiety. Some of the common physical symptoms of anxiety in men are excessive sweating, dizziness, and panic attacks. While emotionally, they could show irritability, issues concentrating and having excessive worries. Just like other mental health conditions, putting off finding help might affect your relationships and day-to-day activities.
3. Eating Disorder
Women having an eating disorder to possess a certain beauty standard are commonly known, but it is practically unheard of in the media that men have the same issue. According to National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), 10 million males will experience an eating disorder at some point in their lives. Some of the common emotional symptoms of people with an eating disorder are anxiety, denial, depression, and distorted body image. While physically, they might have weak bones, poor concentration, hair loss, and low blood pressure, among other symptoms. Aside from having other mental health issues, another cause of eating disorders in men is that they have the same pressure to achieve certain body types that caused them to binge-eat or purge.
How to Support Men with Mental Health Condition
The simplest, most important way to help is to have the conversation and break the stigma.
First, normalize talking about mental health struggles and encourage men who opened up about it. Let your loved ones know that there is no shame in having mental conditions and that you would support them in any way you can.
Second, let them know that there is no shame in getting help. Rather than leaving the symptoms of mental illness to worsen, let them know that it is best to get it treated before it disrupts their daily activities. Think about it this way. If you would go to a doctor for a cold, why not go to a therapist for depression?
Third, speak up if you notice something is amiss. If your friend suddenly loses interest in their hobbies, looks sad most of the time, starting to avoid social interaction, or acts out of the ordinary, ask them about it. Asking if someone is okay or if they need to talk is the best way to open a conversation. Perhaps your friend needed someone to talk to but not knowing who to contact. There are only two possible outcomes from asking about their well-being: If it turned out to be a passing sadness, wonderful! But if it turns out to be a persisting mental health concern, you could save their lives by being the support they needed.
If you or someone you know is mentally struggling and need someone to talk to, please call a 24-hour crisis center managed by Mental Health America at 1-800-273-8255 or SAMHSA Distress Helpline 1-800-985-5990.