Stop the Stigma: Men's Mental Health
According to the Priory group’s mental health research, 35% of men believe that they’ve had diagnosable mental health conditions at one point in their lives. The survey found that men don’t talk about their mental health because they are embarrassed or believe that they have learned to deal with it. Some have said that it will take them having thoughts of suicide or thoughts of self-harm before they talk to a close family member or friend. According to the research done in 2019 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the US, men died by suicide at the rate of 3.7 times greater than that of women.
With men, the struggle is often an invisible one. The appearance of strength and success, distress, feeling alone, or simply feeling detached and unfulfilled is an experience often not visible to those around us. There is so much suffering in the world and there can be a sentiment that men who appear to have it all need to “suck it up” when it comes to their internal struggle.
In Africa, internalization of masculine norms has been reported to make them more susceptible to mental health problems. According to Goodey Jo, the idea that “boys don't cry, and men do not shed tears” is associated with the African culture about what society expects of men in typical chaotic or challenging situations.
As a society, stigmas associated with mental health are prevalent and common. Men face the added stigma that seeking help for mental health is a sign of weakness, that ‘real men’ don’t ask for help, and that talking about topics like anxiety and depression won’t help. Men often experience further bias within male counterparts with the perceived belief that mental health challenges make men a burden to others, and men should be able to control and manage their own feelings. Whatever the stigmas, we need to stop shaming men into thinking they are inadequate if they express a need to address mental health challenges or concerns. Without support and empathy, men will continue to suffer in silence and experience worsening or more acute challenges with mental health disorders.
How can we help ourselves as men?
• Spread the news among men: we are allowed to show emotions. Showing emotions does not mean you are weak
• Find a support system: a community of people that allow you to be yourself and are open to listening to your pains without judging you. According to Better News Today, an average black man in the United States finds support in churches or barber shops. Find the community that makes you feel welcome and grow in it.
• Stay positive
• Prioritize taking good care of yourself.
Men are humans too, love them, support them and importantly, listen to the words they don’t speak.