Men are often told to be tough and hide their emotions. Society deems men who express themselves as weak or feminine. This causes bottled up emotions and feelings. In response, men are less likely to seek help which can be harmful for them and others. The American Journal of Public Health published a review of studies in 2022 that dealt with the societal stigma surrounding mental illness. This study found that men who internalized the stigma were less likely to seek help for psychological issues. The study also found that men were more likely to face a heightened risk for severe mental illness. Men have lower rates of reported depression than women, however, they are more than twice as likely to die by suicide. The stigma around mental health, especially for men, prevents many from speaking up.
Men may experience different symptoms than women. One reason for this may be men’s views on mental health. Men tend to experience higher levels of anger, aggression, and irritability. They may also show distress in other ways that are deemed “culturally acceptable”. Women, on the other hand, typically display signs of low mood instead. As mentioned in previous blog posts, mental illness impacts the body just as much as the mind. Symptoms of an illness such as depression for men can also include a racing heart, digestive issues, or headaches. While men are not likely to seek help for mental health issues, they are likely to visit their doctor regarding physical symptoms. Men are also more likely to self-medicate for depression with alcohol and other substances rather than seeking professional help.
Since men are less likely to speak out on mental health this creates less diagnoses. Approximately 10% of men experience some sort of depression or anxiety with less than half seeking treatment. In 2020, men died by suicide 3.88 times more than women. Nearly 60% of men have experienced at least one trauma in their lives causing PTSD. This trauma can develop in weeks, months, or even years. Around 49% of men feel more depressed than they admit to those around them. The Today Show performed a survey of 1,000 men which confirmed the assumption that men are much less likely to voice their struggles with mental illness, even if that includes thoughts of suicide.
Breaking the stigma around mental health is the first step to helping more men feel comfortable discussing their struggles. Opening up about mental health does not mean someone is weak. It means he or she is aware that there is a problem that needs to be addressed. Be sure to check in on the men in your life to make sure that they are not suffering in silence. Help them feel comfortable with expressing their struggles by showing them that there is strength in seeking out help.