The stigma around men seeking support for mental health is very real.
It’s an old expression that ‘’real men’’ don’t cry. Meanwhile, a harrowing amount of men are dying from suicide, the modern health epidemic of the 21st century. Statistics show a significantly higher number of males than females ending their own lives, and these rates are on the rise.
This existing cultural barrier is preventing men from getting help. ‘’Real men’’ are told to be strong, not soft. There is an antiquated notion that we are supposed to be tough and resilient to emotional worries. For many men, talking about their mental wellbeing equates to a loss of masculinity, and the thought of seeking professional help is unthinkable.
This stigma prevents men from being able to empower themselves by asking for help when they need it. Men should not have to suffer in silence. Let's break down the barriers for seeking help - everyone has bad days, and we all go through difficult times. It’s easy to get overwhelmed and not know how to dig out of a feeling or situation.
Here are ways we can help men open up:
Recognize emotions - It is incredibly important to try to explore our emotions and acknowledge what we are feeling. Sometimes it’s an obvious emotion to identify, such as when going through a traumatic life event or a loss. Other times, it’s a series of feelings - such as not achieving what you expected by a certain age, low self-esteem, marital stress, or a build-up of many small things. Recognizing that you are having troublesome emotions is the first step in getting help. A good therapist can help you put a name to troublesome feelings that you might not be able to label.
Look into existing habits and behaviors – Oftentimes, men bury their emotions under habits that can often turn into addiction - drinking, drugs, infidelity, and video gaming are just a few. Typically, these behaviors are serving them some kind of purpose. Look into what your habits might be covering up.
Start the conversation - Like physical health issues, mental health issues are nothing to be ashamed of. The more conversations we have, the more receptive society will be to the realization that men also struggle. Consider the saying, “A problem shared is a problem halved.” You have to start somewhere.
Find a community to confide in - As you talk more openly about mental struggles, you’ll be absolutely astonished at the number of men who are also struggling with similar emotions. Surrounding yourself with a community of people (whether it be colleagues, friends, or family) who will listen to you lends you the support you need. It also increases your adaptability to new people, situations, or changes in your life. (Lin M. Z., 2016) It may take time to find the right person or group to confide in, but you weren’t meant to go through this alone. Many men find talking to a therapist very liberating. Someone is always there to listen, even when it doesn’t feel like it.
Talking openly about mental health can save lives. One simple conversation can shift the shameful attitude, put an end to the stigma, and empower men to make the life-changing decision to seek professional help and begin their path to healing. It all starts with one conversation.
We can save the lives being lost to mental illnesses by ditching the old, outdated stigma. Instead, begin a conservation about emotional struggles facing men and encourage them to reach out for help when things really do get tough.
If you know someone who needs reassurance that their mental emotions are valued and need to be listened to, call me at 512-470-6976 for a free phone consultation.