Men account for approximately 75% of suicides and substance use disorders (Affleck et al., 2018), yet they are less likely than women to report or seek treatment. Research shows that this is due to societal pressures and expectations to be self-reliant, to endure, and to be emotionally reserved.
There are negative societal standards and norms that are associated with masculinity. They may encourage aggressiveness, emotional suppression, dominance, and the disregard of characteristics traditionally associated with the feminine. Too often, men, wanting to obtain professional help for mental health struggles, feel it violates fundamental standards of masculinity that are often an important part of their identity (Affleck et al., 2018). When getting help contradicts the lifelong concept of masculinity, it makes mental healthcare highly unappealing and even frightening to men.
There are beliefs that support that men should not show vulnerability or openly express their emotions. If they admit to having a mental illness, they fear they will be perceived as weak. This stigma may activate feelings of shame and loneliness, and a reluctance to seek treatment, even when it is seriously needed. The stigma manifests itself in a variety of ways, including social, self, professional, and cultural and appears in a variety of ways, ranging from professional ignorance to parental lack of understanding to self-doubt. Males learn at an early age to not openly communicate their emotions or struggles with mental health concerns (McCrackin, 2022). There is a correlation between untreated mental health issues and behaviors, such as substance abuse and aggression, and the impact on interpersonal relationships, including friendships, romantic partnerships, and familial connections.
With the considerable absence of mental health advocacy for men, what has ensued is a cycle in which mental health issues get increasingly swept under the rug. To end this repetitive pattern, we encourage open conversations, more education and resources, and the fostering of supportive communities where men feel empowered to seek help without fear of judgment. In addition, we should examine the influence of healthcare systems and mental health services on men's access to treatment.
But how can we, as a culture, address the challenge of men's mental health when such strong barriers exist? Since males are less likely to engage in therapy or access mental health resources because they fear seeming feminine, what can we do to improve men’s mental health and make treatment a more appealing option to guys? To end the stigma, it is essential that we promote masculinity with a focus on men’s physical health, a strong work ethic, and men’s idea of a holistically healthy life. Thus, we are challenging the stigma around men's mental health. Open discussion and the development of strategies to encourage help-seeking behaviors and promote mental health awareness through education, communication, and advocacy will take us a long way to dismantling the stigma.
Men can incorporate mental health knowledge, along with physical activity and healthy eating, to enhance their mental well-being. This provides individuals the freedom to choose strategies that work best for them while emphasizing self-reliance and personal independence that corresponds with traditional masculine norms and contribute to the reduction of the stigma associated with seeking professional help and the perception of dependency (Sharp et al., 2022). We advocate initiatives and programs challenging the stigma and we call for individuals, communities, and policymakers to work collaboratively towards creating a supportive and inclusive environment for men's mental health.
Men's Mental Health Awareness month is an opportunity to shine a light on these concerns, promote awareness, offer potential solutions, and promote a supportive environment in which men feel empowered to prioritize their mental well-being. Supporting and embracing the mental health of all individuals, regardless of gender, helps to end the stigma and the negativity related to this issue. We will face challenges, mainly because changing a core cultural belief is difficult. It involves dismantling century old beliefs about what it means to be masculine and allowing men to show emotional vulnerability, seek support when needed, and break the cycle of silence. This June, let us join to challenge the stigma, raise awareness, and create a future where men's mental health is prioritized, supported, and celebrated.
Affleck, W., Carmichael, V., & Whitley, R. (2018). Men’s Mental Health: Social Determinants and Implications for Services. The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 63(9), 581–589. https://doi.org/10.1177/0706743718762388
McCrackin, C. (2022, May 10). Men And Mental Health Stigma. Addiction Center. https://www.addictioncenter.com/community/men-mental-health-stigma/
Sharp, P., Bottorff, J. L., Rice, S., Oliffe, J. L., Schulenkorf, N., Impellizzeri, F., & Caperchione, C. M. (2022). “People say men don’t talk, well that’s bullshit”: A focus group study exploring challenges and opportunities for men’s mental health promotion. PLOS ONE, 17(1), e0261997. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.02619