The visible signs of mental illness are often disregarded as a sign of weakness or failure on the sufferer’s part, especially if they’re men. Being told to “man up” is a common refrain that is often reductive and stigmatizing, and it can be especially hard for men to escape this type of social stereotyping.
Nearly four times as many men as women take their own lives, per data from the National Center for Health Statistics. Middle-aged white men are the most common demographic in which this holds true. These frightening numbers demonstrate the widespread nature of the male population’s mental health crisis, which includes issues such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, and thoughts of suicide.
One in five adults experiences some form of mental illness in their lifetime. Mental illnesses like depression and post-traumatic stress disorder have the same biochemical effects on men and women, but they have very different clinical presentations and prognoses in each sex.
When it comes to mental health issues and receiving treatment, men face a unique set of obstacles. Here are some of the most common reasons why men don’t get treatment or help when they need it for mental health disorders.
Toxic masculinity and the associated stigmas
Toxic masculinity is a common barrier for men seeking help for their mental health. This phenomenon is related to the stereotypical roles of men and the norms that society has set for them. Men have long been conditioned to view emotional disclosure and vulnerability as morally suspect. This results in a diminished capacity to handle one’s emotions and a tendency toward emotional repression.
Toxic masculinity and mental illness cause problems in the home and sometimes even lead to sexual violence and aggression. This is not an explanation for the behavior, but it may have played a role in the emergence of the behavior.
If men and boys are constantly told that showing emotion is a sign of weakness or that they should just “get over it,” they may be less likely to seek professional counseling when they need it for mental health issues. An essential first step in reducing toxic masculinity as a barrier to treatment is working to break this cycle and raising awareness about managing men’s mental health medication or suitable treatments.
The link between Stress and Money Problems
There is a vicious cycle between mental illness and money problems that is more common among men. In addition, toxic masculinity plays a role in this pairing because men have traditionally played the role of breadwinners. You should know that women have only been actively working since the end of World War I. That means the perception of men as the breadwinner and the traditional gender roles have only changed in the last few generations.
Historically significant economic shifts affect men’s mental health because of the correlation between financial stress and poor mental health. As we enter a recession, this is yet another factor to keep in mind.
Possibility of Substance Abuse Increasing
Men are more vulnerable to the effects of substance abuse, including experimentation with and abuse of illicit substances. Again, there is a foundational connection between unhealthy coping mechanisms like substance abuse and an inability to process emotions healthily.
Addiction and substance abuse are linked to a downward spiral of worsening financial stability and impaired emotional processing. When working with men experiencing mental health issues, it is crucial to be aware of these patterns and correlations.
There Is a Greater Danger of Suicide
The shocking number in men’s suicide rate shows how few options men have when seeking help for their mental health. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that the suicide rate for men is 15 per 100,000 in 40% of the world’s countries. Female suicide death rates are recorded in only 1.5% of countries worldwide. Given that women are more likely to experience depression than men (though men are likely going undiagnosed), this finding comes as something of a shock.
Men with mental illness have a high risk of suicide because of many of the things listed above, like gender norms, toxic masculinity, etc. It demonstrates the widespread stoicism among males and the necessity of a societal shift.
Problems obtaining materials geared toward men
Multiple sources exist that focus specifically on women’s mental health. There is a real need for these programs, as many abused women have experienced severe psychological damage due to their ordeals. For men to feel more comfortable seeking help for mental health issues, however, it is crucial to have access to resources written specifically for them.
It will take time and effort to break down the taboos surrounding men’s mental health and end toxic masculinity. It’s important to watch what you say to a partner, brother, or son. Know when to call someone out when they’re using stereotypical language. The most important thing is to let the men in your life know they can get assistance.
Self-medication Instead of seeking professional help
The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that males are more likely to abuse drugs, including legal and illegal ones. They also have a higher risk of dying of an overdose and requiring emergency care after using illegal drugs.
According to the research, men are more likely to turn to self-medication than women when dealing with mental health issues. Furthermore, it was discovered that men self-medicate with alcohol and drugs significantly more than women do to manage the symptoms of PTSD, which is more common in men. In line with other research showing that Black men are less likely to receive treatment and more likely to experience stress and psychological distress compared to non-minority populations due to cultural and racial systemic barriers.
Lacking comprehension Depression in men may manifest otherwise
Some symptoms of “male-based” depression include increased fatigue, irritability, unwillingness to socialize or anxiety about socializing, a loss of interest in work or hobbies, and sleep disturbances. Additionally, anger and aggressive behavior are men’s most common symptoms associated with mental health disorders.
Recent years have seen an uptick in studies examining the manifestations of depression and other mental illnesses in males. The term “normative male alexithymia” was coined by Ronald Levant, a former president of the American Psychological Association, to describe men’s difficulties with expressing emotion, which is thought to contribute to depression and act as a barrier to treatment.