Surveys from around the world show that men find it difficult to open up about Mental Health, though they are significantly more at risk of attempting suicide than women. In this exclusive piece, we look at why this may be and how to address this issue.
What Is Mental Health?
Mental health includes emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices.
Mental health is vital at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood.
Throughout your life, if you experience mental health problems, your thinking, mood, and behaviour could be affected.
Many factors contribute to mental health problems, including:
Biological factors, such as genes or brain chemistry
Life experiences, such as trauma or abuse
Family history of mental health problems
Mental health problems are common, but help is available. People with mental health problems can get better, and many recover completely.
Some common men’s mental health issues
Many of us have been there, but few recognise just how serious isolation and loneliness can be. Now more commonly referred to as ‘social isolation’, loneliness in its more severe forms is now seen as a contributor to many social ills including violence, suicide, and substance abuse.
It’s chiefly a feeling of sadness about being alone. Still, it can also happen when people surround you – its primarily a sense of lack of connection to the world around you, like you don’t belong and no-one understands you.
Stress is a feeling of being under pressure and overwhelmed. Stress is experienced when there is an imbalance between what’s being asked of us and our ability to deliver or cope with demands. This causes discomfort and distress and can lead to other men’s mental health problems, including anxiety and depression. Although most commonly associated with working life, stress can be triggered by any number of situations including at home, social situations and on the sporting field.
In manageable doses, stress can be a good thing as it can play a crucial role in driving us to achieve our goals. Problems arise when someone feels unable to meet expectations, and their coping abilities to deal with the pressure are challenged.
Depression is an intense feeling of sadness that lasts for a long time, sometimes weeks, months or years. These feelings can interfere with daily life, wellbeing and physical health.
The most common men’s mental health issue in Australia, anxiety is a consistent state of extreme worry or fear about perceived threats, that is usually out of proportion to the reality of the situation. Anxiety is ongoing and can happen without any particular reason or cause.
Men’s mental health is being ignored all over the world and less concerned about. This ignorance can cause a lot of health damages, anxiety and loss of confidence.
According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, men died by suicide at a rate of 3.54 per cent higher than women in 2017.
Mental Health America reports 6 million men are affected by depression in the United States every single year.
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism puts the annual number of men dying due to alcohol-related causes at 62,000, compared to 26,000 women.
And men are also two to three times more likely to misuse drugs than women.
Depression and suicide are ranked as a leading cause of death among men, and yet they’re still far less likely to seek mental health treatment than women.
The stigma men face
“I think part of it may be this macho thing,” Dr. Raymond Hobbs, a physician consultant at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, told Health line. “A lot of guys don’t want to admit they have this problem. They still see depression as a sign of weakness.”
He was clear that this type of thinking is outdated, a relic of previous generations that doesn’t speak to the current medical understanding of the mental illness.
“We know so much more now, and we recognise the chemical changes that take place. In many ways, mental illness is just like diabetes, or any other physical condition,” he said.
But Hobbs points out a lot of people don’t look at it that way. Instead, they still see mental health struggles as a personal issue and a lack of personal fortitude.
Because of that, and the stigma that still exists surrounding mental illness (not to mention, the pressure on men to always be strong), a lot of men struggle with admitting they may need help.
“There is work for us to do as a society regarding the stigma of asking for help,” Zach Levin of the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation told Health line. “While we have done a much better job of reducing stigma and expanding opportunities for support, men still may be experiencing shame and guilt that could lead to them being less willing to ask for help.”
Men’s mental health should never be ignored and must be taken seriously in order to curb the damages.