There is what can be called a “silent” mental health crisis happening in North America. Men make up half the population but struggle silently when it comes to mental health disorders. According to The National Institute of Mental Health, men are more likely to commit suicide than women.
Men are also more likely to develop substance use disorder (SUD), according to research done by The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Not only that, statistics on specific mental health disorders for men may be skewed. This is because men are least likely than women to seek help, as found out by the American Journal of Men’s Health (AJMH).
The Stigma of Mental Health
It is no wonder that men struggle so much with mental health. Mental health is heavily stigmatized to begin with, but it’s worse with men. Women are typically seen as the weaker sex, so men are expected to tolerate anything life can throw at them. This is rooted heavily in misogyny, which is still a prevalent problem in our society. Despite this toxic way of thinking, the stigma is constantly reinforced. Tough men in movies are shown to outright reject help from anyone. Jokes about mental health are commonly shared among men, which perpetuates harmful stereotypes.
In a way, the stigma feeds itself. The fear of asking for help often causes men to double down on their beliefs. If they talk loudly enough about how only weak men seek help, it makes them feel as though they are tough. Other men see this and are often pressured to follow along with the crowd. Men and women are social creatures and seek validation and comfort from others. The stigma of mental health disorders only isolates people further, which leads to tragedy. Suicide is one such outcome when people feel that they have nowhere to turn for help.
Society and Men’s Mental Health
Men are usually expected to suppress emotions and take care of issues themselves. This type of conditioning starts at a very young age, as boys are told that men don’t cry. Men are usually forced to bottle up emotions, which can then express themselves in harmful ways. Young boys often struggle with mental health disorders that express themselves differently than that of a girl. For example, men are more likely to express aggression when struggling with depression. This is a stark contrast to women, who tend to show their depression symptoms in a less hostile way.
Of course, aggression is often seen as a normal thing for boys to experience. A lot of concerning behaviors are often outright ignored by society. If you have ever heard the term “boys will be boys” then you may be familiar with such behaviors. For many boys, mental health disorders that develop young are rarely treated until harm comes to themselves or others.
Because men are expected to be tough at all times, there is a severe problem with how society treats men who are victims of abuse. A man can be abused just like a woman can. It doesn’t matter how big or strong someone is; they can be the victim of assault and abuse. However, it is often seen as the ‘fault’ of the man to ‘let himself’ be treated poorly. Even worse is the treatment of men who are victims of sexual assault. It’s no wonder men have such high suicide rates if they can only expect ridicule for seeking help.
What Can Be Done About the Silent Crisis?
The best way to help with the crisis is to be a supportive person for the men in your life. If they are young children, provide them with love and safety. When they are old enough to discuss feelings, let them. Let them know that they don’t have to be strong or tough around you. They can simply be themselves and you will care for them the same. Listen to men when they speak about their problems and encourage them to seek help for it.
You can also call out people who are perpetuating the stigma. If you are a man yourself and are mentally able to, consider being a mentor to other men. Sometimes it just takes one person passing on positive advice to start a chain reaction.
It’s important to pass on the voices of men who struggle with their specific mental disorders. One of the reasons why this is such a serious crisis is because, many times, the voices of men are shut down. Men and women indeed experience mental health in very different ways, but it’s still important to learn from each other.
Society doesn’t change overnight, but changes are slowly being seen here and there. Awareness in general about mental health issues is being discussed more than ever before. The more people talk about it, the more acceptable it is to seek help. Keep being an advocate, and others will soon take notice. Change begins with one person, and you will be surprised how quickly a movement can start when enough voices join with yours.
For any man, young or old, it can be hard to find the courage to seek out help for his mental health. There is an immense amount of pressure in society for men to never need help and to tough things out on their own. This is detrimental not only to the health of the men involved but to society as a whole. Here at Acera Health in Costa Mesa, California, we staff those that understand the specific issues men are struggling with today. We offer a safe environment for anyone of any gender to seek the care they need to live happy and full lives. If you or someone you love can benefit from treatment, call (949) 647-4090 today.