Healthy Living

Breaking the Stigma: Mental Health in Men

Jun 8 2023

Mental health in men remains a taboo subject, despite the fact that statistics show 18 percent of men experience diagnoses of a mental health disorder.

Additionally, statistics can be deceiving as mental illnesses in men often go undiagnosed as a result of men not seeking out medical care. Perhaps this is because they buy into the stigma that acknowledging a health concern is a sign of weakness.

“When comparing the prevalence of mental health disorders between genders, we know women have a higher rate of being treated,” Rajiv Parinja, a board-certified psychiatrist at Mercy Health – Behavioral Health Institute, shares. “Disorders such as depression and anxiety are common men’s health issues, so it’s important for men to see their health care professional and to voice any concerns they have.”

Mental health issues in men include everything from depression and anxiety to panic, post-traumatic stress, substance abuse and bipolar disorders. Like women, men can experience difficulty concentrating, feeling restless or on edge as a result of mental health problems. Also like women, a lot of their mental health concerns can lead to physical health issues in the future.

“Mental illness often starts subtly,” Dr. Parinja explains. “People may not be enjoying their lives as they did before. They become easily irritated, resentful and are quick to anger. They may start avoiding the things they enjoyed, especially if that involved being around people. There is often increased drinking, substance use or increase in vegetative activities, such as long hours of watching TV and browsing the internet, could also be significant.”

In extreme cases, men’s mental health issues can manifest in destructive behaviors including aggression, violence, high-risk activities, substance abuse, fatigue, obsessive thinking and even suicidal thoughts. In fact, according to the National Institute of Mental Health as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, men die by suicide at higher rates than women.

Knowing that men feel at times that it is “unmanly” to ask for help, Dr. Parinja wants to reassure men that it’s OK to be vulnerable.

He also wants men to receive mental health treatment and see it as a sign of courage.

“It is always helpful to check in with others, even if you don’t believe you are seriously struggling with symptoms of mental health or mental illness,” Dr. Parinja adds. “Talking about your mental health and well-being can give you a chance to focus on how you’re handling life.”

In some cases, anxiety in men and male depressioncan be prevented when proactively engaging in a healthy lifestyle. In fact, self-care plays a critical role in maintaining both your physical and emotional health.

“People don’t think about preventing mental health problems, but there are things that can help,” Dr. Parinja says.

Including the following:

  • engaging in regular exercise
  • avoiding excessive alcohol
  • avoiding recreational drugs
  • removing large quantities of processed foods from your diet and replacing them with fruits and vegetables
  • connecting with people who are in your support system
  • taking time to connect with nature by going on walks, hikes or simply sitting outside
  • taking time to pursue spirituality in a way that you feel grounded and connected to something larger than yourself

“At a time that people are feeling stressed, they may want to avoid taking on more challenges, at work or in life generally, that add to the stress,” Dr. Parinja adds. 

Whether you’re a man who has just recently been experiencing symptoms of depression, or you have been battling a mental health disorder for a long time, your number one priority should be to always seek help. The main care approaches for mental health are psychopharmacology, or medication, and psychotherapy, which includes counseling. And in some cases, a combination of the two may be most effective.

When it comes to mental health in men, we are here to help.

Learn about the mental health services we provide at Mercy Health.

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