Though we’re more open about mental health than ever before, men still face pressure to be stoic and steady. Here, we’ll shed light on how we can understand mental health risk factors for men and how we can erase the stigma for good.
According to research published in the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, men are less likely than women to be diagnosed with common mental health disorders such as depression or anxiety. They are also more likely to be diagnosed with neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism or ADHD, or impulse control disorders. However, men are far more likely to develop a substance use disorder or die by suicide.
Mental health conditions can develop for many reasons, not all of which are fully understood. But certain risk factors increase the likelihood of a man developing a mental health disorder. These include:
- Unemployment, underemployment, or low job security
- Genetic predisposition
- Alcohol use
- Divorce, especially when also losing custody of children
- Childhood abuse
- Stressful life events
- Gendered language or attitudes among health care providers may discourage men from seeking mental health assistance.
Signs and symptoms
Mental health conditions can present in a seemingly limitless number of ways, regardless of gender. But according to the National Institute of Mental Health, there are some specific signs to watch for in men. These include, but are not limited to:
- Anger or aggressiveness
- Changes in mood or energy level
- Sleep issues
- Restlessness or feeling on edge
- Misusing drugs or alcohol
- Feeling sad or hopeless
- Feeling numb
- Participating in risky activities such as drag racing
- Physical pains without a definite diagnosis
- Racing thoughts or compulsions
- Difficulty participating in daily life (work, family, or social)
- Unusual thought patterns or behaviors
- Thoughts of suicide
Addressing the stigma of mental health
Most mental health conditions are highly treatable, but men are often reluctant to seek help. This may be due to early lessons in stoicism, social pressures, or the need to be seen as a strong provider. Regardless of the reasons, though, the decision not to seek help can wreak havoc on a man who is suffering and on those who love him. From the National Alliance on Mental Illness, here are a few ways we can all work to erase the stigma surrounding men’s mental health.
- Talk about it. Openly discussing men’s mental health, including personal struggles and the journey through therapy, is the best way to normalize it and help more men feel comfortable seeking help.
- Learn all you can about your mental health condition and mental health in general. When you hear people saying something incorrect or even derogatory, take the opportunity to open a dialogue.
- Watch your language.Be careful to say things like “a person with anxiety” instead of “an anxious person.” Like physical disabilities, mental health conditions are sometimes used as adjectives or even insults.
- Be compassionate.Show kindness and compassion to those who seem to be struggling. Mental health conditions can be isolating, especially when they cause behaviors outside the norm.
- Become empowered. Allowing shame about your condition to control you means giving away your power. Take it back by owning your life and choosing to get better by seeking the help you need.