In terms of overall wellbeing, your mental health is as important as your physical health. Mental health issues can affect everyone, but for some people, it’s difficult to seek help for problems that are not visible to others. This is especially true for men. Men deal with mental health issues differently because of gender stereotypes and society’s expectations.

Men’s traditional roles as breadwinners who are expected to be strong, dominant, and in control can make it harder for them to open up and reach out for mental health support. But this hostility towards openly talking about emotions and mental health can make life difficult for men – it may even kill them.

Here’s what you should know about men’s mental health, from identifying symptoms to finding the right kind of mental health support.

Types of mental health conditions

A wide range of mental health conditions can affect men, but the most common are depression, anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia.

Male vs Female Mental Health Statistics

A lot of people think that it’s more common for women than men to experience mental health conditions, especially depression. However, that doesn’t mean that the condition doesn’t affect men. In fact, a 2019 study reveals that men in the United States were three times more likely to die by suicide than women.

Experts are learning that there are complex factors involved in the differences in how mental health issues affect men and women. This can include hormone differences, clinical bias, coping strategies, and like mentioned earlier, internalized gender stereotypes.

Signs of depression in men

Several biological and social factors can cause the difference in how the same mental health condition affects men and women.

Mental health issues can manifest through the following symptoms:

  • irritability, anger, and aggressiveness,
  • sadness or emptiness
  • guilt feelings
  • frustration
  • trouble concentrating
  • worry
  • substance misuse or abuse
  • engagement in high-risk activities
  • thoughts of suicide

Some mental health conditions, like anxiety and depression, can also affect physical health. These include:

  • weight changes
  • digestive problems
  • new aches and pains
  • sleeping issues
  • feeling low in energy

It’s often the people close to the person with mental health issues who notice the symptoms first, as it can be difficult for the experiencing them to notice the changes.

Mental Health Stigma in Men

The National Institute of Mental Health says that in the past, men are less likely than women to have received mental health treatment. However, this doesn’t mean that men do not need mental health support.

Rather, mental health experts explain that it can be difficult for men to open up about their mental health and seek support because it’s likely that it goes against society’s expectations of how men should behave and manage their emotions.

Men who don’t or can’t speak openly about their emotions are likely to be unable to recognize the symptoms of their mental health conditions.

How men can get support for their mental health

If you’re unsure how and where to reach out for help, below are some of your options.

Talk to a professional

A good starting point is to regularly see your healthcare provider. If your doctor doesn’t have enough background on mental health conditions, they will likely refer you to a psychiatrist or psychologist.

Search online

The internet can be a good place to find professionals who specialize in mental health. For example, the American Psychological Association’s locator tool can help you search for therapists near your area. The tool also allows you to filter your search if you prefer a particular type of therapy or therapist.

Other online directories to look into:

  • HeadsUpGuys
  • American Psychiatric Association
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
  • Anxiety and Depression Association of America

Reach out to your chosen therapist

If you’ve found a therapist you’re interested in seeing, reach out to them before you schedule an appointment. Provide them with basic information like your symptoms, the issues you want to address, and what you expect from them, and the therapy sessions, including the schedule, teletherapy options, and support in between sessions.

It’s also the best time to ask about your health insurance if you have any because some insurance providers do not cover mental health therapy.

What to expect during therapy for mental health

The goal for the first two sessions is for your therapist to get to know you, and for you to get a feel of their approach. During this time, feel free to ask any questions and communicate your expectations from future sessions.

For the therapy to be fruitful, it’s crucial that you feel comfortable opening up to your therapist. If you still feel uncomfortable with your therapist after a few sessions, you can consider exploring other options. It’s not uncommon for people seeking mental health treatment to see a few therapists before they find the one they’re comfortable with.

Your treatment will depend on your symptoms, and your therapist might refer you to a psychiatrist if he deems that medication is necessary to treat your mental health condition.

If you are advised to take medications like anti-depressants, it doesn’t mean that you’ll need to take them for the rest of your life. These medications only help temporarily so you can function normally. Your psychiatrist will discuss with you any side effects you might experience from these medications.

Coping with mental health symptoms

Everyone, including men, can benefit from self-care. While it’s crucial to seek professional support for your mental health issues, there are also plenty of things you can do to care for your mental health between sessions.

According to experts, looking after yourself is crucial to keeping stable mental health.  This can include maintaining a healthy diet, getting enough sleep, and exercising regularly. However, self-care doesn’t end there. Acknowledging and staying with your feelings instead of pushing them away or denying them is crucial to keeping your mind healthy.

Acknowledging uncomfortable feelings is a real challenge, which is why some people with mental health issues fall into unhelpful coping strategies like substance use or engaging in risky behavior. However, these coping mechanisms don’t offer long-lasting relief, and may even create more complicated issues.

When you’re experiencing an uncomfortable feeling or emotion, consider the following options:

  • write your feelings in a journal
  • do a quick body scan meditation
  • practice breathing techniques

Remember to be gentle with yourself as you explore different ways to manage your emotions. Don’t beat yourself up on bad days when your coping mechanisms are from far perfect. Instead, prepare yourself for the next opportunity to practice a new coping strategy.

Talk to your friends

Unlike women, it’s not easy for men to open up to their friends about their feelings. However, starting that conversation might benefit both you and your friend. When you have someone that you can speak openly with about your emotions and personal challenges, you are cultivating a healthy and deeper relationship with other people who can be your support. While your therapist can certainly take up that role, it might also be helpful to open up to a friend. You can offer the same kind of help to a peer who needs it.

The importance of men’s mental health

Seeking treatment for mental health issues isn’t always easy, particularly for men. However, opening up about your struggles is crucial to maintaining good mental health. If you need help now, seek immediate help from a professional counselor. Reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255, or text HOME to 741741.

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