We’re now in July and June is hailed as the men’s mental health month. But honestly, the conversation around men and mental health should go on all year long. Mental health and physical aren’t mutually exclusive. Both are equally as important as the other. Mental health issues know no gender, race, class; it can effect anyone. But unfortunately society has made the very topic of mental health a taboo. Society made the situation even more tricky for men. As a result, numerous men fall into the rabbit hole alone. Some rise up on completely on their own but there are plenty who lose the battle with hardly any people realizing. Some even stay in denial due to so-called “shame” involved.
Men’s mental health issues and their reasons
While people of any gender can suffer the mental health issues, there are still few differences in the scenario. Some issues by which a huge number of men suffer from are-
Depression refers to persistently low mood which interferes with daily functioning. Common symptoms are extreme sadness or hopelessness, tiredness, displeasure from usually enjoyed activities, sleeping issues, et cetera. It’s one of the most common mental health conditions and men are less likely to seek help for it. Bipolar mood disorder is a form of depression which causes extreme mood swings ranging from emotional highs to the point of oblivious to lows like suicidal thoughts.
- Anxiety disorders
Anxiety disorders refer to severe and sometimes uncontrollable feelings of worry and fear. The most common type of anxiety disorder is general anxiety disorder. It comes along with depression for many people. Other types of anxiety disorders are social anxiety disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). Social anxiety disorder causes intense anxiety and fear in social situations. OCD causes obsession on specific thoughts or a compulsive need to do specific activities or routines repeatedly.
PTSD is a condition that effects people who have experienced or witnessed an extremely traumatic or stressful event. These events include accidents, assault, sexual violence, natural disasters, war, et cetera. People with PTSD have intense thoughts related to the event long after its end. They may relive the events via nightmares or flashbacks. Feelings of extreme sadness, fear, detachment, strong reactions to ordinary activities, et cetera are some other symptoms.
Schizophrenia is an extreme mental condition where patients can’t interpret reality the way it is. This feeling of living in a distorted reality comes via hallucinations, delusions and other forms of disoriented thinking. It severely impacts quality of life and relationships for the patient. Men are more likely to develop schizophrenia early.
The reasons why men are effected by the above mentioned issues are:
- Traditional gender roles. This is perhaps the prime reason behind a man’s poor mental health.
- History of mental health issues in the family.
- Substance abuse. Men are more likely to turn to drugs and excessive alcohol as a coping mechanism for poor mental health. But the fact is, it only makes things a lot worse.
- Men who have experienced traumatic events. Since the majority of those who are fighting or have fought in active warzones are men, this is the prime reason behind men suffering from PTSD.
- Stress due to unemployment, poor working conditions and high workload.
- Divorce and other marital problems.
- Severe legal or financial issues. Poor financial state drives a lot of men to suicide.
- Other big and intimidating life changes.
The stigma around men’s mental health and why it’s important to speak out
The stigma around men’s mental health revolves around traditional gender roles. Self-reliance, strength and toughness regardless of situation are traditionally associated with masculinity. From childhood, men are told to suppress their emotions because showing any of it means being weak. Even if someone does speak out about their issues, they’re ridiculed for their so-called weakness. Some common phrases for this situation are “man up”, “real men don’t cry”, et cetera. Some even question the very masculinity of those men. This exchange is not solely man-to-man, a lot of women also expect men behave the way society wants them to be and they dislike any non-conformation.
Because of this toxic masculinity enforced since childhood, many men stay in denial if they get effected by mental health issues. Even if they do get diagnosed they’re afraid of admitting it because it makes them feel weak. Going to the pharmacy to buy medications is also a matter of huge shame for them. They don’t want to visit a therapist because they don’t want to share things with a stranger. Hence diagnosed or undiagnosed, these men suffer alone and try climbing out the hell they are in on their own.
These conflicted men barely show normally associated signs like extreme sadness but shows anger and aggression. So it becomes harder for loved ones to see if something is wrong. Today, a lot of men have unlearned society’s “rules” and get all the help they can. But it doesn’t eradicate the problem that mental health issues is a like a silent epidemic among men.
Research shows that men have higher rates of mental health issues than women. Same goes for suicide rates and attempts, common associations with mental health issues. Despite this, the fact that some parts of society discourage seeking help due to ego or traditional gender roles is appalling. People must understand that a man living with mental illness and being open about it is not a sign of his weakness. In fact, it takes a lot of strength for him to open up about his struggles. Opening up to an understanding loved one and seeking help for the issue is the first step towards recovery. It takes off a huge burden from the shoulder.
The topic mental health is getting a lot of awareness and discussion these days thanks to those with a platform. But still there are some people in society who tend to cling on to traditional beliefs. Suffering in silence to seek validation from that chunk of people is not a healthy choice at all. Life can be hard at times but it’s still a valuable gift. Men who remain in denial due to societal expectations must realize that despite all the struggles, there are people who love them. Suffering in silence or being in denial also directly or indirectly impacts loved ones. So it’s important to be open not only for the sake of self but also for the loved ones. Also, it’s not rocket science to unlearn society’s past indoctrination. We as human beings are an ever-evolving species.
Treatment of mental health issues varies from issue to issue. Three most common procedures are:
This includes individual counseling with a private therapist or group therapy in support groups led by an expert moderator. Psychotherapy helps the patient to understand and work through the reasons behind the situation. It also helps with healthy coping mechanism.
Cognitive behavioral therapy helps understanding the unhealthy thought patterns and make positive changes in behavior. Bipolar mood disorder patients are often treated by dialectical behavior therapy.
Medications vary from issue to issue. There are certain antidepressants prescribed by the therapist which helps with anxiety and depression. Medications and psychotherapy usually go hand in hand for the best results.
How can you help?
- Regularly keep in touch with loved ones during stressful times. Let them know they’re not alone. Talk to them about how they’re feeling.
- Look for changes in mood or behavior after the incident has happened.
- Encourage those having a hard time to seek help from professionals
- Offer to look up on professionals and if possible attend therapy sessions with the person.
- Being compassionate
- Cultivating an environment where the emotional growth of male children are flourished
Society is always evolving and the taboo around mental health, especially men’s, is decreasing. Medical professionals are always stressing on the importance of sound mental health and how it’s not mutually exclusive to physical. People with a platform who have lived through the experiences are also opening up because it’s not only self-beneficial for self but also for others. The conversation shouldn’t go around on specific times of the year or when something bad happens. It should be all year long. And above all, challenging traditional gender roles has to be more fierce for the sake of everyone.