This article was developed via a partnership with BetterHelp
The mental health of men and boys is a critical issue to discuss that is affecting all aspects of society. Unfortunately, men have struggled with various mental health concerns for far too long and have been discouraged from seeking help. This has devastating consequences, including contributing to violence statistics worldwide. Furthermore, living with untreated mental health conditions has led to an early grave for many men.
Supporting men’s mental health is a task everyone should be involved with. Education and understanding are the first steps towards healing and positive change. This article will introduce you to the stigma around men’s mental health. It will also provide some tips on how you can support the mental health of the men in your life.
The Stigma Around Men’s Mental Health
The primary obstacle that men face is the stigma of toxic masculinity. For eons, men have been discouraged from expressing their emotions or discussing their mental health concerns. The pervasive stigma that men face tells them that any expression of emotions or mental concerns makes them weak and “unmanly.” Emotions are primarily seen as a female issue, so any man who cries or feels emotional is considered “not a real man.”
As a result, very few men feel comfortable expressing their emotions. When faced with challenges and problems, they may try to just “suck it up” instead of healthily working through their feelings. They are significantly less likely to express their emotions to loved ones and are unlikely to seek professional help for mental health concerns. Furthermore, it is very common for men to bottle up their emotions, which can have devastating consequences.
The Repercussions Of The Stigma
Though there is far more awareness of the importance of mental health, it is still seen as a less important aspect of overall health and well-being. Therefore, when men bottle up their emotions, they don’t always realize just how devastating the consequences can be. Untreated emotions and mental health concerns may cause greater mental health conditions and even manifest into physical problems. Some of the common side effects of this stigma include:
- Physical health concerns such as cardiovascular disease or metabolic disease
- Increased aggression
- Poor sleeping habits
- Tendency towards violence
- Psychological distress
- Substance use
- Issues with dating or socializing
- Worsening of various mental health conditions, such as depression or anxiety
Since men are discouraged from seeking professional help for their mental health, they will turn to unhealthy means to cope with their emotions. A common way they do this is by resorting to substance use. However, this habit can be quite deadly. Men are more than twice as likely to die from alcohol-related causes than women and are two to three times more likely to misuse drugs.
What is even more heartbreaking is that many men resort to suicide due to the pain they experience. In fact, depression and suicide are one of the leading causes of death among men.
If you or a loved one are experiencing suicidal thoughts, reach out for help immediately. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 1-800-273-8255 and is available 24/7.
How To Support The Mental Health Of Men And Boys
Even the kindest and most empathetic men may struggle to care for their own mental health. Sometimes they need some help or indication that it is safe to express their feelings before starting to care for themselves. If you notice that the men in your life struggle with their emotions or mental health concerns, you can do a few things to help and support them.
- Let them know you are open to talking: Sometimes, just making it clear that you are open to listening to their concerns can do wonders. Many men feel like they aren’t allowed to discuss their emotions, so they don’t. Offering a safe space for these conversations will at least provide an invitation to start these dialogues. This is an important first step for men to begin to open up.
- Express affection: Expressions of affection are frowned upon in traditional masculinity, so many men rarely receive the same displays of love that women receive. For example, they are less likely to receive compliments, hugs, or similar forms of affection. Therefore, one of the best ways you can support their mental health is by showing your love for them. They will appreciate the affection and probably experience more happiness and satisfaction knowing they are loved.
- Don’t judge them: One aspect of this conversation that people don’t realize is that some women are as much to blame for the stigma as men. Many men who have been brave enough to be vulnerable or emotional have found the women in their life laugh at them or think they are weak for expressing that emotion. Therefore, once your men begin to open up, don’t judge them. Keep providing a safe space for them and listen to them with empathy and love.
- Provide them with resources: Women are often much better at seeking out professional help or resources (such as self-help books) that help them with their emotional or mental health concerns. However, men can benefit from these tools just as much as women. If you have any good books or know of a great therapist that might help, then introduce the men in your life to these resources.
The mental health of men and boys is a crucial topic that has not been addressed enough in society. For far too long, men have been discouraged from caring for their mental health or expressing their emotions. Not only has this caused them great distress, but it can even be deadly. By understanding the stigma behind this epidemic and trying some of the tips above, you can help the men in your life improve their mental health and find some peace and joy. You can click here for more tips and further reading on the mental health of men and boys.