I’ve had my fair share of people avoiding therapy when they need it. And I don’t just mean just men, I mean anyone avoiding it. Mental health is incredibly stigmatized for everyone. You are either crazy, weird, lame, insane, etc if you are mentally unstable.
Men’s mental health stats in particular are alarming. Men commit suicide 3 times the rate of women, they account for almost 70% of suicides, and it’s the biggest killer for men under 45. Suicide is obviously a problem for men, but why? Why do men turn to drugs and abuse alcohol more than females? A factor that can result in more overdoses/suicides.
We tend to ignore the very real issues that men face in our country. We tell them to be strong, focus on making $$, and to be stoic. But this message leaves no room for men to make mistakes, seek help, and feel their negative emotions in a comforting space. Tens of thousands of men are dying a year, and although suicide is majorly complex, we can’t ignore a major factor: society’s mental health stigma.
Men are overwhelmingly and disproportionately represented in suicide stats. Although everyone suffers from mental health “bashing” men, or anyone in that matter, does not help. When we raise our boys to “toughen up” and that value can be found in not such fulfilling things, (such as cars, $$, their looks, women, sex, drugs) they grow up to struggle with their mental health. As a result, mental health conditions are under-reported and under-detected in men, leaving them vulnerable to suicide.
We need to desperately reframe help-seeking. Men may avoid asking for help because they fear it makes them weak or a failure. Finding ways to change this horrible perspective is crucial in reducing male suicide rates. We need to raise men differently, and continue to offer a supportive, tender, and heartwarming environment.
Boys need to be taught how to care and love not only themselves, but other men as well. Men need phrases like “Hug it Out” not “Toughen up.” Intimate emotions are often only for a romantic relationship, this also needs to change. Men should be told that having a close relationship with other man is not gay, weird, or pussy. It means you are strong enough to build a connection with another human and it’s how we feel fulfilled. We feel fulfillment in our connections.
Through these strong connections, we build our support systems. Many men feel as though they have no one to turn to when emotionally down, or don’t know where to turn. This is a problem because it means they are not building a solid support foundation. It also means we aren’t giving them the right tools and guidance when it comes to seeking support.
I recommend holding stronger convos around emotions and being someone who can listen with an open heart. Men need to become more comfortable with talking to their friends and family about how they feel. And while the individual needs to do work on this, we also have a responsibility as outsiders to help this growth. We need to facilitate accessible resources for men and frame this convo differently.
There is nothing wrong with seeking/asking for help when it comes to your mental wellness. Mental wellness is directly related to overall health, and sexual well being. If you know of anyone struggling with their mental health, be a voice for them. Don’t add to the stigma and isolation that many people with mental health issues face.
Encourage therapy, (therapy is not just for those with a sickness, it is used by many people struggling with their emotions, a relationship, their image, etc) and share therapy positive information. If we normalize therapy and seeking for help, I hope that we as a society can become happier and healthier.
While normalizing therapy is a major component and the stigma around therapy is part of why men ignore their feelings, we need to take it a step further. Look at how our society treats those who are emotionally struggling, what were they taught when they were younger?
Because teaching boys to not be affectionate, intimate, emotional, or any other qualities that can show “weakness” is not the way to creating stronger men. It just leaves us with unhappy, unfulfilled, and emotionally suppressed men who make like 90K a year. Congrats.