As Men’s Health Month winds down, we focus on men’s mental health, which often does not get as much attention as women’s mental health does. There is much more of a stigma surrounding mental health issues in men than in women so much so that it stops many men from seeking help. Rates of depression, substance abuse, and suicide are higher in men than women. Some alarming statistics include the following:
• Six million men are affected by depression in the U.S. every year.
• Men are two to three times more likely to misuse drugs and alcohol than women. The number of alcohol-related deaths per year in men are around 62,000 compared to 26,000 in women.
• Men commit suicide at a rate that is 3.54 percent higher than women.
The mental health stigma
For men suffering with mental illness, they not only struggle with the symptoms and issues that result from the disease, but they are also faced with negative stereotypes and prejudice about mental illness. Men, in particular, face a greater challenge with the stigma surrounding mental illness. Many men may see depression as a sign of weakness and don’t want to admit let alone seek help for their problems. Left untreated, men’s depression and anxiety can worsen and lead to greater risks of substance abuse and suicide.
There’s a lot of societal pressure on men to be strong and to be the provider for their families. This enormous pressure can take its toll, and many men struggle to admit that they may need help if they are suffering with depression or other mental health problems. Fear of losing their jobs or being overlooked for promotions if they ask for help plays a part as well. While a lot of work has been done in recent years to reduce the stigma of mental illness, many men still experience shame and guilt if they are struggling, or they aren’t taken seriously.
Causes of mental health issues in men
Mental illness can have a variety of causes, including chemical imbalances and genetic predispositions. But a wide range of factors can lead to the development of mental health issues in men, including these:
• Sexism. Men who strongly conform to traditional masculine roles and norms may be more likely to suffer from mental health problems. Feeling pressure to be the provider for their families and also adhering to the societal norm of not talking about their feelings can contribute to anxiety and depression in men.
• Trauma. Just as with women, prior trauma is a leading factor in mental illness. Trauma such as past sexual or physical abuse in childhood, experiencing combat in war, or working in high-stress professions such as law enforcement or firefighting can increase anxiety disorders such as PTSD.
• Job loss. There’s an increased risk of depression in men who are unemployed or retired.
• Separation or divorce. Depression is particularly prevalent among divorced men.
• Financial issues. Money problems are a top cause of stress for many people and can definitely lead to anxiety and depression for men, who see themselves as the provider for their families.
• Substance abuse. Men are more likely to turn to drugs or alcohol to cope with mental health issues, which only makes the problems worse.
Treatment can help
Even though a lot of men may be reluctant to seek help for mental health issues, early intervention can have a significant, positive impact. Men who do seek treatment for depression and other mood disorders usually see a reduction in symptoms and overall improvement in quality of life, stress reduction, improvement in relationships with family and friends, and a decrease or elimination of negative or destructive behaviors such as overeating or alcohol abuse.
There are a variety of therapies that can be used for the treatment of mental health disorders, including counseling or talk therapy (either one-on-one or group therapy or both), cognitive behavioral therapy, and medications. Many psychologists will also recommend that their patients start some sort of exercise routine, as improving physical health can also help improve mental health by reducing stress, improving sleep, reducing social isolation, and boosting self-esteem.
For resources, helpful articles, and more information on men’s mental health, visit https://mantherapy.org/.