The Snowball Effect of Mental Illness Stigma in Men

Men are often told to “man up” as showing emotion is considered as weak, and this can result in men not understanding mental health of others and in themselves. The stigma of mental illness can make it a challenge for anyone to seek the help they need. However, men are raised that their own mental health concerns are not important and will make them less of a man discussing them.

Social norms are one of the biggest barriers preventing men from reaching out when they are mentally unwell, and this also prevents them from being able to help and understand a friend, wife, or even their own child’s mental well-being. When a family member reaches out for help, the way that men have been raised, many are unable to assist as they have been raised that emotions are not for “men”, thus many men lack the understanding of mental health in general.

In a world where mental illness is becoming less of a stigma, there is a higher chance that a wife, son, or daughter may come to you for help, thus it is important for men to talk about their own feelings, understand their own struggles, to be able to guide their families.

Mental Illness in Your Family

Do you have a family member who struggles with depression or anxiety? Mental illness does not discriminate; it can affect anyone, regardless of age, gender, race, or religion. Whether it is you or a family member, take some time to research your own feelings and while you are busy, learn new information about mental illnesses, whether it is depression, anxiety, or post-natal depression. Chances are high in any household that a family member goes through trauma at some stage in their life, and learning how to cope is important. One important aspect in supporting a family member who has a mental health issue is to allow space for that person to feel what they feel without saying it is “silly”, “get over it”, they are “overdramatic” or “exaggerating”. Another aspect is to gain as much knowledge as you can about their particular mental illness and how it impacts their life and that of the family.

If there is already mental illness in the family bloodline, the risk of mental health being genetically passed down through the generations is increased. Without blaming the other parent or family members, sensitivity to this increased risk can increase the support the person needs and will make it easier for them to receive the correct treatment and explore the various treatment options for them.

It may also be beneficial to examine the relationship dynamics within the complete family system as to whether it is aggressive, passive, or accommodating and how this dynamic is contributing to the emotional well-being of each family member.

At some point, the mentally ill person will need to choose their treatment, and respecting their choice is critical. While you may disagree with what they feel and think, it would be of benefit to hold an open calm discussion about your thoughts and then allow them to determine how they want to manage their illness. Obviously, this decision must be age appropriate.

It should also be considered that if one person in the family has a mental illness, the other family members may be experiencing the family dynamic as very stressful. While they themselves may not be diagnosed, the strained relationships and reduced functioning of the mentally ill person could precipitate an increase in roles or responsibilities within the family. This adjustment can make difficult situations more challenging for all involved.

No mental health issue is felt in isolation and impacts all those around in a relationship with them. This will include not only family but friends as well.

How Can You Talk To Loved Ones?

Talking to a loved one about their mental illness can help them feel less alone, and it can help you also feel less alone and understand your own struggles more. Simply being present can be invaluable.

Here are some tips when talking to a loved one:
• Plan conversations in advance. Think about the best time and place to start a conversation
• Be patient and non-judgmental
• Offer support but also be clear about what you can and cannot do to help. Your mental health is important to
• Remember, anyone is more than their mental illness. Remind yourself and the person you are talking to that mental health does not define you or your relationships.

How Do I Look After Myself When Caring For Someone Else

Caring for someone else with a mental illness can be challenging. It can increase the risk of increasing the symptoms of your own mental health condition. Looking after your own physical and emotional needs will help you keep caring for your loved ones. Do not be afraid to acknowledge your own feelings. Consider sharing your feelings with a friend or another family member, or speak to a professional to guide you.