Mental Health is an Equal Battle: Raising Awareness for Men

men and mental health

By: Megan Earp

Men struggle with mental health, just like women, but they are less likely to reach out for help because they feel they must remain strong and admitting they are mentally “sick” makes them look weak. Also, according to some men, mental health help is geared more toward women, and oftentimes when they are seeking help, they are misdiagnosed or under-diagnosed because of their presenting symptoms.

What does mental illness look like to men?

It’s important for society to talk about mental health in men. According to research, women are more likely to have been treated for a mental health problem than men. What does that percentage look like? As of 2017, the prevalence of a mental health disorder showed that 22.3% of women were suffering from a mental illness, while only 15.1% of men were. Another statistic showed that 47.6% of women with a mental health disorder sought help, and only 34.8% of men did.

What are the reasons for men to not seek help when they are feeling depressed, anxious, or out of sorts? Here are few reasons why men do not seek help:

  • Awareness is targeted toward women – As stated above, some men feel that most counseling advertisements/campaigns are too “touchy-feely.” This immediately turns men off and makes them check-out of therapy. According to research, men respond more strongly to humor, particularly dark humor, and softer mental health language. Engagement is key, and taking this into consideration is needed in order to “hook” the man into counseling.  
  • Men ask for help differently –  Men want to be able to help someone in return, and so knowing that it’s a two way street they are more likely to ask for help and not see it as a weakness. Men need to something to do, not just sit and talk about their feelings. They need to feel as though they are contributing to the bigger picture.
  • Men show different symptoms – While women are more likely to appear sad, tired, and unengaged, men are more likely to be irritable, angry, frustrated, and to use alcohol or other substances to combat their symptoms. If these signs are similar to what you are currently feeling, please seek help today. It’s okay to reach out, and to ask for help. Men suffer too, and by reaching out, you can get onto the path of wellness.

Signs, symptoms, and mental illness in men

The following signs and symptoms are common with men (women may show these signs too, but it’s more common in men) suffering from a mental health issue. Though some of these symptoms could manifest for other reasons, these are the common ones that are shown in men:

  • Escapist behavior
  • Headaches, digestive problems, pain
  • Problems with alcohol or other drugs
  • Controlling or violent behavior
  • Irritability or inappropriate behavior
  • Risky behavior, such as reckless driving
  • Withdrawal, extreme sadness, and exhaustion (men and women)

Depression signs do differ, but it’s not clear as to why this is so. It could involve a number of factors like brain chemistry, hormones, and life experiences. Also, men experience different coping skills, both healthy and unhealthy.

Common myths about men and mental health

Along with the above stated reasons, there are other common “myths” that men struggle with that can make them turn away from receiving the help they need. Below, those myths will be discussed and will show you why they are just that, a myth. They are:

  • Depression = Weakness – depression has nothing to do with personal weakness. It is a serious condition that millions of men battle with every year. It’s the same as other diseases, like diabetes and high blood pressure, it can happen to anyone so it’s not something to feel ashamed about.
  • A man should be able to control his feelings – depression is a mood disorder which means it can alter your mood at any point in time. There is no controlling these mood swings, but you can learn how to react to them. Don’t just ignore the issue, seek help before it becomes too hard to control.
  • Real men don’t ask for help – this is probably one of the most frustrating myths that are out there. It’s such a misconception, if you need help, you need help and shouldn’t feel wrong/bad for seeking that help. Sometimes, an outside perspective is what we need to heal. Imagine a person trying to win a baseball game on their own, it’s impossible, but with a team, it can be done. We all need a team sometimes.
  • Ignoring depression won’t make it go away – if you know that it’s depression or you’ve been feeling down for some time, it won’t just go away. This is another common myth, that if you don’t accept it, then it just disappears. That is not true. Seeking therapy can prove beneficial and give you a place to go to talk out your feelings, actions, etc. Seeing a new perspective can help you to see what is happening and also to help you develop coping skills.
  • Depression will make you a burden to others –  You will not be a burden if you seek help for your depression or other mental health disorders. It’s more frustrating when you need help, but don’t ask for it. People are willing to help you, especially when they love you. Don’t be afraid to ask for it, and understand that you are not putting them or causing them problems by asking for help. We all need help sometimes, and it’s okay to seek help if you need it.

Don’t be ashamed – seek help

Mental health is an issue for millions of people around the world, and is not something to be feel ashamed about. Take the time to seek professional help if you are feeling low or feel as though you are “not in control.”

There is a wonderful website, HeadsUpGuys, that has stories from other men who have suffered from mental health disorders and what to look for in different disorders as well resources to utilize to begin the journey to a better you.

Remember, depression doesn’t single just one person out, millions of people suffer daily, and as of 2019, it is the number one cause for disability. So take the time today to reach out and begin your journey to a healthier you. Help is is available and recovery is possible.