In recent years, people have become more open to discussing mental health issues. Countless celebrities have detailed their mental health experiences and inspired others to do the same. Although it seems like the topic of mental health is less taboo today, there is still a lot of work to be done, especially concerning men.
Men and mental health
Almost 1 in 10 American men experience some form of depression or anxiety (National Center for Health Statistics). Unfortunately, less than half of them have sought treatment. Additionally, 49 percent of men feel more depressed than they will even admit to the people closest to them. Even though people are having more conversations about mental health, women are doing most of the talking, which leads us to question… why?
Most men can tell you of the incredible pressures society places on them to be strong and stoic leaders. Gender roles, such as men being providers, protectors and therefore, less emotional, can be damaging to men. Not every man will fit into a set mold of how “men should be”. The pressure to fit this mold can cause insecurities and even more severe mental health issues.
In addition to unrealistic expectations many men have to face, men are more likely to experience trauma-related incidents. Traumatic experiences can lead to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and other mental illnesses. About 6 out of every 10 men experience at least one trauma in their lives. If men are statistically more likely to experience trauma and the related consequences of these traumas, then we need to start paying a lot more attention to their mental health. These numbers should hugely affect how we monitor men’s mental health and how we react to men sharing their experiences.
Recent conversations on social media show that many people still have a negative view of men’s mental health; however, more and more men are speaking out.
Negative attitudes prevent men from seeking help and feeling comfortable expressing themselves. But if more people, especially men, voice opinions of support, they can start getting the help they deserve.
Traditionally, women are thought to be more emotional and sensitive than men. And so these qualities took on a feminine connotation, even though anyone can have these traits. This idea is driven home by common phrases like “Man up”, “You hit like a girl” and other stereotypical colloquialisms. You might think these are just harmless sayings, but they confirm that even from a young age, males are taught to keep their emotions to themselves and to do nothing that can be seen as feminine, even if it means they have to suffer in silence.
If more men start to feel comfortable when talking about mental health, so many men will realize that they aren’t alone. Illnesses like depression or anxiety don’t care about race, gender, sexuality or socio-economic status. It can happen to anyone, at any time. The conversation begins when we as a society rethink gender roles and do away with stereotypes. The sooner that we become more accepting to men being vulnerable, the quicker the number of men who commit suicide per year goes down.