Why We Need to Talk About Men’s Mental Health
Men’s mental health is a uniquely difficult subject to broach. While traditional mental health awareness is growing, the state of men’s mental health has largely remained stagnant. At the same time, statistics for men’s mental health are concerning at best — and shocking at worst. For instance, nearly one in ten men suffer from depression and anxiety, and men are nearly four times as likely to die by suicide than women.
What can explain this gap in recognition for men’s mental health despite the overwhelming prevalence of mental health issues among men? Some of it can be attributed to the fact that societal pressures and outdated gender models have made it difficult for men to discuss mental health concerns with their healthcare providers and one another. Despite this, mental health remains a complex and multi-faceted topic for both men suffering from mental illness and those who treat them.
In this article, we’ll discuss the barriers men face to getting proper mental health treatment as well as tactics to help men cope with symptoms of depression, anxiety and more.
1. Common barriers men face to seeking mental health treatment
There are a host of barriers men face to seeking mental health treatment. The first is an awareness problem: many men simply don’t tell others they’re experiencing symptoms of depression or anxiety because they worry about the social connotations of mental illness. Despite the fact that millions of men suffer from mental health issues every day, the notion of having a mental illness is often perceived as a sign of weakness among men.
At the same time, studies show that men who aren’t able to verbalize their mental health concerns are also less likely to recognize they’re experiencing a mental health crisis. This in turn makes men less likely to reach out to support networks or healthcare providers when dealing with a mental illness.
Additionally, men are more likely to turn to substances to cope with depression and anxiety than women. Men with depression are twice as likely to binge drink as women, and are more often the victims of alcohol-related deaths and hospital visits than women.
2. The stigma around men’s mental health and asking for help
Social expectations regarding men make it even more complicated for men to discuss men’s mental health. Historically, men have been perceived as household leaders, providers and doers who are expected to be strong for others in their immediate community. This perception makes it difficult for men to open up about their concerns, especially among family, friends and coworkers.
What’s more, men are less inclined to ask for help than women. This also comes from an outdated social model in which asking for help is often perceived as a sign of weakness. Some potential warning signs of depression in men that indicate help should be sought out include:
- Increased irritability
- Bursts of anger
- Binge drinking and drug use
- Distracting oneself with excessive work or leisure activities
- Feeling out of control or unable to hold back impulses
- Engaging in risky or unnatural behavior
- Aggression toward others
3. The stigma around journaling in men
Journaling can be a wonderful pastime for men looking to improve their mental health. Despite this, for much the same reasons that mental illness concerns are difficult to address in men, journaling among men is also an oft-judged behavior. Men might feel discouraged from journaling because it involves emotional honesty and transparency — something men are often taught to avoid.
Men who have previously been averse to journaling can stand to benefit greatly from keeping an active journal. In fact, in some ways journaling might be more well-suited for men as a coping mechanism than other mental health measures: thanks to the private nature of the medium, men can outline their struggles internally before bringing their concerns to others. This might be a benefit for men who have an especially hard time verbalizing how mental illness impacts their lives.
Perhaps even better than journaling for men’s mental health is journaling with a certified responder. The Journal That Talks Back™ is just one resource among many that allows men to connect, write and collaborate about their mental health struggles in a shared yet private way.
Journal-ees are paired with coaches who read their entries and respond with coaching practices that can help men take practical steps to combat depression and anxiety. Coaching takes place on the user’s time — meaning there’s no pressure — and journal-ees can write as little or as often as they like. Platforms like these can help men break the stigma around journaling, as well as combat other traditional barriers to men’s mental health treatment.
Remember that while journaling is a great addition to a mental wellness plan, it’s no substitute for traditional mental health services when you’re facing a true mental health crisis. While therapy and support from healthcare providers is always the best route for immediate assistance with severe mental health concerns, journaling can act as a powerful addition to your daily mental health routine.