mental health for men
Healthy Living

How to Address Mental Health for Men

Jun 26 2024

Mental health is an essential aspect of overall well-being, yet it often goes overlooked, especially when it comes to mental health for men. Societal expectations and stereotypes have long painted men as stoic and unemotional, leading to a harmful culture of silence.

However, acknowledging and addressing mental health issues is crucial for everyone, regardless of gender. It’s important to discuss how men can improve their mental health. This can be done by addressing common challenges and taking steps toward better mental well-being.

The silent struggle

Societal pressures and stereotypes

Men are often expected to embody strength, resilience and emotional fortitude. These stereotypes can create immense pressure, discouraging men from seeking help when they need it.

According to the American Psychological Association, traditional masculinity ideology discourages emotional expression and promotes self-reliance and dominance over others, which can hinder emotional well-being and mental health.

“Men are often missed in typical depression screening due to atypical presentations and minimization of symptoms,” says Todd Simmons, MD, a psychiatrist in our Lima market. “It is important that we develop an environment where men feel comfortable letting health care providers know they are not doing well.”

Prevalence of mental illness

Mental health issues commonly affect men, yet they are less likely to seek help compared to women. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) reports that men are significantly more likely to die by suicide than women, indicating a severe gap in mental health support and intervention.

Depression, anxiety and substance abuse are prevalent among men but often remain undiagnosed and untreated due to stigma and reluctance to seek help.

Recognizing the signs

Depression and anxiety

Depression and anxiety can manifest differently in men compared to women. While women may exhibit sadness and emotional vulnerability, men are more likely to show irritability, anger and aggression.

Physical symptoms of mental health conditions can also be indicators of an underlying issue, including:

“Mental health symptoms can often present gradually and can be hard to identify until severe symptoms have presented,” Dr. Simmons explains. “Common initial symptoms of depression in men include avoidance, irritability, loss of interest in things, increased alcohol or substance use and increase in physical symptoms.”

Substance abuse

Men often have higher rates of using substances as a coping mechanism for dealing with stress, anxiety and depression. This can lead to a dangerous cycle of dependency and worsening mental health.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) highlights the strong correlation between substance abuse and mental health disorders among men.

Breaking the barriers

Encouraging open communication

One of the most effective ways to combat mental health stigma among men is to encourage open and honest communication. Creating safe spaces where men feel comfortable expressing their feelings without judgment is crucial.

Support from friends, family and mental health professionals can make a significant difference.

“It is very helpful to have friends or family that you can check in with when things are not going well. Open communication allows you to feel less alone, which can provide hope during difficult times,” Dr. Simmons says.

Seeking professional help

Professional mental health support, such as therapy and counseling, is vital. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), for instance, has been proven effective in treating depression and anxiety.

Men should be encouraged to seek help from mental health professionals who can provide tailored support and treatment plans, which may include considering medication in conjunction with therapy.

Building a support system

A strong support system can help men navigate their mental health challenges. This includes supportive relationships with family, friends and community groups. Peer support groups specifically for men can also provide a sense of camaraderie and understanding, helping men realize they are not alone in their struggles.

Practical steps toward better mental health for men

Regular exercise and healthy lifestyle

Physical activity is a powerful tool for improving mental health. Regular exercise can reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety and promote overall well-being.

Additionally, maintaining a healthy diet, getting adequate sleep and avoiding excessive alcohol and substance use are important for mental health.

Mindfulness and stress management

Practicing mindfulness and stress management techniques, such as meditation, deep breathing exercises and yoga, can help men manage their mental health more effectively.

These practices can reduce stress, improve emotional regulation and enhance overall mental clarity.

“Mental health treatment is often reactive. It is important that we place more emphasis on preventive treatment for mental health,” Dr. Simmons says. “Preventative treatment would include physical activity, healthy eating, mindfulness and social interaction.”

Education and awareness

Increasing education and awareness about mental health is key to breaking down stigma and encouraging men to seek help. Public health campaigns, workplace wellness programs and educational initiatives can play a pivotal role in changing perceptions and promoting mental health literacy.

“It is important to remember there are many ways to seek help. Primary care physicians are a great resource, but so are local community and religious leaders as well as peer support groups,” Dr. Simmons explains. “The most important thing is reaching out and asking for help.”

How we can help

Mental health is a foundational part of men’s health and is a critical issue that requires attention and action. By breaking down societal barriers, encouraging open communication and promoting professional help and emotional support systems, we will create a healthier environment for men and mental health where they can thrive mentally and emotionally.

“Despite improvements in the destigmatization of mental health, asking for help can still be seen as a weakness. We need to remind our patients it is much more a sign of strength and courage when they do so,” Dr. Simmons says.

If you don’t know where to start, bring up the conversation with your primary care provider. They can give you some options and guidance, whether that’s seeking a mental health professional, starting a medication or other treatment options.

Learn about the behavioral and mental health services we offer at Mercy Health.

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