Why do men feel they can't talk about their mental health?
The potential causes and effects of stigma
With there being such a huge increase in mental health awareness and overall appreciation for people’s everyday struggles with their mental health and well-being, it is clear that as a society there is a clear shift from old fashioned adages of ‘keep it to yourself’ or ‘just get over it’, with people now generally being far more open and willing to discuss their struggles, in order to gain help as well as increase public awareness and understanding.
However there seems to be one particular area which appears to be somewhat of a void within mental health awareness and discussion… Men’s mental health. Despite there being such a positive move towards discussion and open-mindedness there is still an overbearing stigma within attitudes towards mental health with men still being told in many cases to ‘just man up’ and ‘get over it’. This article intends to briefly explore the potential trial reasons for this stigma and Men’s seeming lack of confidence to discuss their struggles, and how we as a society can potentially mend this flawed relationship between men and mental health awareness.
In an article published by JAMI mental health blog UK, it was found that men in particular find it extremely hard to talk about their mental health, and despite women being far more likely to have a mental health diagnosis, in 2017 75% of UK suicides were men. This is a staggering statistic as it is a clear indicator of the adverse effects of this ever prevalent stigma around men’s mental health. JAMI also found that there was a “double whammy” when it comes to men and mental illness. This is because not only do men struggle with the general stigma that effects all those who suffer from mental illness, but they then have to face the further societal programming that they, as men, shouldn’t show emotion and should be stoic in all scenarios regardless of how potentially troubling or traumatic.
Later in the article, one of the men went on to describe to JAMI his experience as well as the fallout from the stigma he faced towards his personal struggle with mental health. He went on to talk about when he faced a crisis within his personal life resulting in hospital admission, saying: “I felt everyone was coming at me. My wife, my friends, my boss, it seemed like they were on at me all the time. Inside I was cracking up, but I couldn’t tell anyone. It was like my brain wouldn’t let me speak. So, I started drinking. Just a can at night to help me sleep, then it became two and then three. I still don’t know what happened that night, but I ended up in hospital. I’ve since learnt that my behaviour was typical of men. I couldn’t talk about my mental health because I thought that made me weak. Self-medicating with alcohol was a way of numbing the pain.” This is just one of numerous real world examples of not only the struggles men face as a result of stigma, but also the fallout and repercussions, which in the case came in the form of heavy drinking.
Ways you can help to combat stigma around men's mental health
Now that we have established some of effects of the stigma men face when facing mental illness it is important to establish ways to combat this stigma. Wellin5 identified 5 ways to break stigma and support men’s mental health. Firstly, let them know they are not alone. Statistics show that men are actually far from alone when it comes to struggles with their mental health. Emphasise that they are not a burden, and make sure they don’t feel they should avoid discussing their struggles. Explain that mental health is just as important, and even arguably more important than physical health. Remind them that asking for help is a sign of courage and that doing this is not a sign of defeat or submittal. Finally, do your part regardless of sex or gender to do your part to spread awareness and fight the stigma, rather than feeding into the outdated ideas and stigma around mental health, wether deliberate or unintentionally.