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MEN AND MENTAL HEALTH: CHALLENGES AND SOLUTIONS

Dr. Rae Osborn 28 Jul 2022
MEN AND MENTAL HEALTH: CHALLENGES AND SOLUTIONS

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Men often suffer in silence when they have mental health problems. There is a stigma around men acknowledging and seeking help for mental health issues. This article attempts to detail the challenges of mental health among men. We also offer suggestions for men on seeking support for the mental problems that they commonly experience.

Why do men hesitate to seek help for mental health problems?

The common reasons for men not seeking help are described below.

  • Many men are taught that it is not masculine to seek help.
  • Traditional male norms make men feel they are not supposed to be emotional or show psychological distress.
  • Men who ask for assistance for mental issues may be erroneously viewed as failing as family providers.
  • Men with mental illness may see themselves as failures and inadequate, but in reality, this is not the case.
  • The stigma of mental illness is a big problem for everyone, especially for men who may feel viewed as weak.
  • Generally, men consider asking for help to be a sign of weakness. This is unfortunate as seeking assistance before problems worsen is far better.

Toxic masculinity

Masculinity is considered toxic when it poses a problem for men and other individuals in their lives. Toxic masculinity is why men do not seek help for mental health problems. A man is expected to be strong and unemotional, which is toxic because issues such as depression go untreated. It is not helpful for men to ignore any mental or physical problems.

Toxic masculinity is also harmful if it leads to aggressive, ‘macho’ behavior. Therefore, it is helpful for men and their families to seek support for their issues, recognizing the value of early intervention.

Signs of mental health problems

There are some signs that can indicate a man is experiencing psychological distress and mental problems. These are listed below.

  • Feelings of sadness and worthlessness
  • Abusing drugs and alcohol
  • Irritability and aggression
  • Insomnia
  • A lack of interest in usual hobbies and daily activities
  • Delusions or hallucinations
  • Sudden changes in mood from very happy to very sad

There can be physical ailments due to mental problems, including increased headaches and stomach trouble. Always check with a doctor when experiencing any new problems (both physical and psychological). 

Common mental health problems men may have

Men are just as likely to have the same issues with their mental health as women. Some common mental health conditions among men are discussed below.

  • Depression: This is a serious condition that can lead to suicide. It can be treated once recognized.
  • Anxiety: Work and life stress can lead to worry. Generalized anxiety disorder is a common affliction that men can experience.
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD): This is also quite common among men and is sometimes classified as a type of anxiety disorder.
  • Bipolar disorder: Mood swings may indicate bipolar disorder.
  • PTSD: Post-traumatic stress disorder happens when a person has experienced some type of trauma. This is a common affliction for men who have been in military service but can also occur due to other traumatic events.
  • Adjustment disorder: This condition is when a person’s response to a stressful event is disproportionate to the seriousness of the event.
  • Schizophrenia: This is usually diagnosed in young people before age 30. People misperceive reality and may have delusions and hallucinations.

Consequences of not seeking help early

The reticence of men to seek help for mental issues has dire consequences for their physical and psychological health.

  • Men who don’t seek help for their mental health problems are more likely to abuse alcohol and drugs.
  • Men are up to three times more likely to abuse drugs than women.
  • Alcoholism rates are also higher among men than women on average.
  • Men are four times more likely to attempt suicide than women.
  • Not getting help can also mean that men perform worse as parents, having a negative impact on their children.
  • Untreated mental health issues often result in physical sickness due to men trying to self-medicate through substance abuse. They also may start other unhealthy habits like not getting enough sleep or eating unhealthy food.

How men can get help for mental health problems

It is essential to understand that being mentally ill is not a weakness. It simply means there is an issue that needs to be treated.

There are some strategies a man can use to manage mental health problems. The following may be helpful.

  • Exercise: Exercising can help you feel better physically and psychologically and reduce stress.
  • Relaxation methods: Exploring methods such as meditation and yoga is useful, which can help relax the body and alleviate mental distress.
  • Support groups: There are often support groups you can join where you can meet others with similar problems.
  • See a doctor: A primary care provider can screen for such illnesses as depression and anxiety. You can also get a referral to a counselor, psychologist, or psychiatrist through your primary care doctor.
  • Visit a psychiatrist: These doctors are specialists who can diagnose mental illnesses and determine the need for psychotropic medication. Such medication can help to stabilize an individual.
  • A mixed approach may be used: This is when a psychiatrist suggests using both medication and therapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy and psychoanalysis, to treat mental health problems. The approach can be adjusted according to the patient’s needs.

Conclusion

Mental health problems are not a sign of weakness but a problem in the brain that can often be treated. Toxic masculinity and the stigma surrounding mental health pose a challenge for men who may be experiencing difficulties. The consequences of not seeking help for mental illness and psychological distress can be deadly. It is always best to speak to your primary care doctor and see what options are available for treatment and referral to prevent further issues in the future. Mental illness is common, nothing to be ashamed of, and can be managed with careful treatment and monitoring.

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About the Author:

Dr. Rae Osborn has a Ph.D. in Biology from the University of Texas at Arlington. She was a tenured Associate Professor of Biology at Northwestern State University where she taught many courses for Pre-nursing and Pre-medical students. She has written extensively on medical conditions and healthy lifestyle topics, including nutrition. She is from South Africa but lived and taught in the United States for 18 years.

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