Men and Mental Health: A damaging Stigma

Mental health among men has been described as a silent crisis, largely because men are much less likely to seek treatment for mental health challenges than women.

In my blog post I will discuss mental health issues among men, why differences between the sexes may exist, and why we think the tide might finally be turning on the culture of stigma and shame when it comes to men’s mental health.

Depression and anxiety disorders are the most common mental health conditions and while they affect women at higher rates than men, over 6 million men struggle with depression and over 3 million men struggle with panic disorder or phobias in a given year. However, depression often manifests differently in men than women. Men are more likely to appear irritable, lose interest in their work or hobbies, or have difficulty with sleep.

Among adults, men are 2 to 3 times more likely than women to experience substance abuse or dependence. Illicit drug use is more likely to result in hospital visits or deaths by overdose for men than for women. Some have suggested that men are more likely than women to cope with life stress by using drugs or alcohol, and research indicates that men who are more committed to the male gender role experience more severe substance dependence and are more likely to abuse substances in response to stress.

As I’ve mentioned, unfortunately, men are less likely to seek treatment for mental health challenges than women. In my opinion this could be due to standards of masculinity, macho attitudes, or even men generally lacking the language needed to express their emotions, possibly due to different socialization or norms. It could also be that current models of mental health treatment are not well-suited to most men’s needs and preferences.

The good news is that as celebrities, many men among them, increasingly share their experiences with mental illness, reluctance to seek treatment and stigma should continue to diminish. Recognition that mental illness is no different than physical illness in that it is not a moral failing or a choice can help people feel more comfortable with treatment seeking. Increased attention to men’s unique needs could help improve treatment utilization as well.

In addition to mental health stigma gradually decreasing, there are now many more options for men to become aware of and manage their mental health than in the past. Using a mood tracker can be a good first step towards improving awareness of mental health by helping you notice patterns or tendencies. It can also help you take a more objective view of how you’re doing, allowing you to view emotions on a longer time scale and less caught up in the moment. For men (or anyone, really) who are uncomfortable seeking treatment in traditional settings, there are many technology tools available today that can be helpful.

Steven Connelly  

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