6 Ways To Support Men’s Mental Health
January 19, 2024 by Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh Depression in Men, male mental health statistics, men's mental health, men's mental health awareness, men's mental health statistics, men's mental health stigma, mens mental health, mental health, mental health awareness, mental health stigma, stigma men's mental health 0 comments
The pursuit of mental well-being is universal, but men often encounter unique challenges in acknowledging and addressing their mental health. In this blog post, we take a closer look at men’s mental health, addressing the common reluctance to seek therapy. Supported by relevant men’s mental health statistics, we not only discuss the drawbacks of avoiding therapy but also provide a comprehensive guide for friends and family on how to encourage and support the men in their lives.
The Stigma Surrounding Men’s Mental Health
Throughout history, societal expectations and established gender norms have played a substantial role in perpetuating the stigma associated with men’s mental health. The prevailing belief that men should embody stoicism and self-reliance acts as a formidable barrier, deterring them from seeking professional assistance when confronted with emotional challenges.
The societal construct of masculinity has, at times, created an environment where expressing vulnerability or seeking help is perceived as a deviation from the expected norm, reinforcing the stigma around men’s mental health. This ingrained perception contributes to the challenges men may face in openly addressing and managing their mental well-being.
Men’s Mental Health Statistics
To better understand the scope of this issue, let’s delve into some mental men’s mental health statistics:
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that the suicide rate among males in 2021 was approximately four times higher than the rate among females. Males make up 50% of the population but nearly 80% of suicides, underscoring the urgent need to address men’s mental health.
- According to the CDC, in 2021 only 17.8% of men seek professional help, highlighting the pervasive underutilization of mental health services.
- As per the National Institute of Mental Health, while mental illness affects both genders, it is frequently underestimated in males. Mental health issues in men often remain untreated due to their lower likelihood of seeking mental health treatment compared to women.
- According to the Journal of American College Health, college-aged men exhibit a low level of mental health literacy, potentially impacting their mental well-being. It emphasizes that interventions aimed at enhancing mental health knowledge and altering beliefs have the potential to improve mental health literacy among male college students.
Signs of Depression in Men
The Mayo Clinic highlights that behaviors in men that may be indicative of depression, yet often go unrecognized, include:
- Escapist behavior, such as spending a lot of time at work or on sports
- Physical symptoms, such as headaches, digestive problems and pain
- Problems with alcohol or drug use
- Controlling, violent or abusive behavior
- Irritability or inappropriate anger
- Risky behavior, such as reckless driving
Given that these behaviors could indicate various mental health concerns, overlap with other issues, or be linked to medical conditions, seeking professional assistance is crucial for an accurate diagnosis and suitable treatment.
Downsides of Avoiding Therapy
- Untreated Mental Health Conditions: Ignoring mental health concerns can lead to the worsening of underlying conditions, affecting various life aspects such as relationships, work, and physical health.
- Isolation and Alienation: Refusing therapy may contribute to feelings of isolation and alienation, as men might be hesitant to open up about their struggles, creating emotional distance from loved ones.
- Impact on Relationships: Untreated mental health issues can strain relationships due to mood swings, irritability, and difficulty communicating effectively.
- Negative Coping Mechanisms: Without proper support, some men may resort to negative coping mechanisms, such as substance abuse or risky behaviors, in an attempt to manage emotional challenges.
Comprehensive Ways to Encourage Men to Seek Therapy
Take Mental Health Language Out of the Initial Communication: Many at-risk men do not see their problems through a mental health lens, so communication such as, ‘if you are depressed, seek help,’ totally misses an important subgroup of men. The men interviewed by Dr. Spencer-Thomas did not consider themselves mentally unwell so language about depression or mental illness didn’t resonate. With this in mind, encourage men to view help-seeking as a sign of strength rather than weakness.
Normalize the Conversation: Initiate open conversations about mental health to normalize discussing emotions and challenges. Share stories of resilience and personal growth.
Education on Therapy Benefits: Provide information on the benefits of therapy, emphasizing that seeking help is a proactive step toward personal growth and improved well-being.
Offer Practical Support: Assist in finding suitable therapists, scheduling appointments, or even attending sessions together via couples therapy or family therapy if the individual feels more comfortable with a support system.
Highlight Successful Examples: Share success stories of men who have benefited from therapy, either through public figures or personal connections. Positive role models can inspire and challenge existing stigmas. For example:
- Pittsburgh Steelers legend Terry Bradshaw, diagnosed with depression in 1999, was open about his mental health journey.
- Swimmer Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympian, disclosed his battle with depression and suicidal thoughts in 2015.
- SNL star Peter Davidson candidly shared his experiences with borderline personality disorder and suicidal thoughts.
- Comedian, writer, and TV host Trevor Noah has openly discussed his ongoing struggles with depression.
- Prince Harry has been outspoken about mental health, addressing unprocessed grief, anxiety, and PTSD.
- Actor and producer Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson has shared his personal battles with depression.
Encouragingly, from 2019 to 2021, there was a notable increase (from 13.1% to 17.8%) in the percentages of men aged 18–44 seeking mental health treatment, as reported by the CDC.
This positive trend underscores the ongoing effort to prioritize men’s mental health. Understanding the challenges they face and offering unwavering support are crucial elements of this journey. By delving into mental health statistics, recognizing the downsides of avoiding therapy, and providing comprehensive ways to foster a supportive environment, we collectively contribute to breaking down the stigma surrounding men’s mental health. It’s time to empower men to embrace therapy as a valuable tool for personal growth, resilience, and overall well-being.
Interested in Scheduling a Therapy Appointment for a Man in Your Life?
If you’re looking to offer practical support for a man in your life, we can help you find a suitable therapist and schedule an appointment. Contact us at 412-856-WELL or fill out the form below.