The stigma around mental health for men is real. And mental health for men has bigger stigma issues than mental health itself. Men seem to have a harder time dealing with mental health themselves, how others are going to see them if they talk out about it. This is nothing against men as a whole, nor is it discriminating against men. It just that men are only beginning to open up to others and starting to talk about how they feel.
Statistics has shown that 75% of suicides are from men under 50. This is showing in hard facts men are sufferers of mental health and feel their only way out is to commit suicide. There is a possible correlation to male’s roles before, where they were seen as the hunter gatherer, and the weight of the family bore upon them.
Putting this role with the modern day male, and the male taking on the role of breadwinner and bringing in food for his family, and when he can’t do this he will see himself as a failure. This may not be true for all males, and seeing themselves as a failure is a general feeling, many other factors and feelings come into play, as we are all unique individuals.
Other factors include men feeling they have to be the strong one in the family and aren’t allowed to show signs of weakness, and admitting to mental health. For them, it is like admitting they are no longer a man because they hold too much pride in being a male to admit to this ‘invisible ‘ weakness.
This mentality cannot be blamed on anyone in particular; it is how evolution has gone, and how men have been brought up in days gone. It is also because men are generally more competitive than women, and are therefore admitting to a mental illness is showing other males they are weak.
It is only recently that men are coming out to with their mental health stories. This is largely because people are supporting the person and encouraging them to talk and discuss what they are feeling. It is also helping by seeing prominent male figures also open up about their mental health issues.
Other men are seeing that if these prominent men can open up, so they can too. This is the important point: finding a way to get the message across to men that it is acceptable to talk and open up about things. While women are more likely to be social and talk about what is bothering them, it is more common that when men get together and talk they will avoid feelings and emotions and talk more about shared interests. Again, this comes to men comparing themselves to others and don’t want to be seen as the weak emotional man in the group.
Men don’t need to be treated with ‘kid gloves’ when it comes to encouraging them to talk, but finding a suitable way in which they will feel comfortable. I am by no way saying men and women need to be treated differently, however it is more common for women to open up easier about their feelings and emotions. This again is because men have not, in the past, been encouraged to talk and open up, they have been brought up to think they are to be the man of the house and that’s it.
Men and masculinity are changing how mental health is seen. This is helping men to open up more and for it to become more of a norm for men to talk about their feelings, rather than them being ridiculed for showing emotions and talking about how and what they feel. It is however still a new thing and men are still more likely to commit suicide than women, and this will probably be the case for some years to come until the stigma of mental health in general is more accepted, and men talking about it becomes more accepted.
It is a shame that this is the situation at present and will remain so for some time to come. I aim to bring some light to males and mental health, and to give some insight into men and mental health, having been through this myself and at first finding it hard to talk and open up. However, my thought patterns changed and so did my environment – everyone became more acceptable of me and more understanding of my situation.
And this is what I would like to see for other men. I want to see more people in general opening up of mental health and talking to others and suicides in general coming down regardless of sex and gender, mental health doesn’t discriminate.
Dale Burden is a correspondent for Psychreg. He holds a dual honours degree in Psychology and Neuroscience from Keele University.