Men: Your Mental Health Is Important Too

As a society, we have created an idea that men need to be “macho”, emotionless and unaffected by mental illness. Therapy should be normalized in general, but especially for men. Men have been taught to “man up” over their bleeding knees ever since they were playing rugby in primary school. They have been taught from a young age to play it cool and bottle up their emotions. We have conditioned men to feel more comfortable in expressing their emotions through harmful, unhealthy behaviours rather than healthier outlets. Unhealthy coping mechanisms are harmful to others just as they are harmful to themselves. “Boys will be boys” can no longer be relevant. The feelings of recklessness and irrational anger that may be rooted in mental health can no longer be normalized.

One mistake that is often made is assuming mental illness looks the same in men and in women, but this is not always true. Symptoms of depression often manifest themselves physically in men through sleep issues, headaches, abnormal eating habits, and loss of interest whereas women experience more moments of sadness. But mental and physical symptoms show differently across genders and across individuals, and because of this, men are underdiagnosed and misinformed about their own mental health. Their symptoms are often unseen by loved ones and general practitioners.

Breaking down the Stigma of Men’s Mental Health

One in eight men experiences depression, and anxiety affects one in five men. These are only the basic stats on the diagnosed conditions. Often mental illness can be hard to detect even in persons experiencing it as many of its manifestations seem just like personality types, such as worry. Depression and anxiety are health problems just like any other health problem. It is important to get help as it can affect your life. But the number of men who do seek help for these conditions is quite low. Many men are not sure if asking for help will be helpful as men need to learn more about mental illness and the treatment options available to them. You can take control and take action!

If you are a man experiencing problems with your mental health, there are a few things to remember:

What will others think?

One of the worries men have is that if they admit they are struggling, the ones around them will think less of them. Over the past decade, mental health attitudes have changed dramatically and it is time to gain a collective understanding that mental health conditions can and do affect anyone.

The greatest stigma you are likely to face is from yourself. It is very likely you will have supportive friends, family, and even work colleagues in the same situation. But you will be extra hard on yourself.

Do mental health challenges make you weak or less masculine or capable? Nothing could be further from the truth. It is a common problem and you do not need to feel embarrassed or ashamed.

You are in control

You choose who you tell. You can see a psychologist without telling your friend. You can tell the people closest to you, giving them the opportunity to look out for you and help you get through. Who you talk to about your struggles and when is all in your control.

You can also choose the actions you take. There are many options that help with depression, anxiety or other mental challenges. You can take an online quiz to rate your mental health, read up on what it all means, talk to your counsellor for advice, speak to people around you or connect with a community. Remember, solving a mental health problem is all about taking action, so take that first step.

Look out for your friends

Almost half the population will experience a mental health problem during their lifetime, so it is very likely that someone close to you will need help. You can try and help friends or family members who are struggling get the medical attention they need. It is not up to you to provide the help they need, but you can support them and perhaps encourage them to seek help or get information. A simple question of “Are you ok?” can start a conversation and it can help share more insights with them about you to get the conversation started.

Educate Yourself

Do you know what depression symptoms are? Do you know what to do if you are struggling? Do you know if how you are feeling is normal or whether things could be better? Do you know what to do or say if someone you know seems to be struggling? Learning more about mental health will help answer some questions. We live in the digital age with access to many resources online!