Men’s Mental Health Reporting

One of the ways that mental health gets treated differently according to gender is by applying stereotypes to the types of conditions men and women face. Studies have reported that the prevalence of mental health issues like anxiety and depression is higher among women, while men are more likely to experience mental health issues like substance abuse and antisocial disorders. In general, this associates women with internalized emotions like withdrawal and loneliness and men with externalized behaviors like aggression and impulsive behaviors.

These studies are based on real data, but they don’t necessarily tell the whole story. Other studies have considered the possibility that the prevalence of anxiety and depression among men may be significantly underestimated due to the fact that men are more reluctant to seek mental health treatment for these conditions compared to women. Unfortunately, stereotypes about men being less prone to have the types of internalized emotions which have become more closely associated with women can ultimately be harmful, especially since it may cause some healthcare providers to overlook possible symptoms of anxiety and depression in their male patients.

The Problem with Masculinity

The reasoning behind some of the most common stereotypes about men’s mental health can be traced back to traditional attitudes about masculinity. Men are often thought to be less emotional compared to women, but this is largely due to the way that boys are socialized from a young age rather than being based on biological fact.

Consider the connotations of the phrase “man up,” which implies that being tough and ignoring one’s feelings is more masculine than showing emotions or displaying any sort of weakness. There are also countless jokes in popular culture which mock men for crying or “acting like a girl.” While girls and women are permitted to show emotion, boys and men are often told to keep their emotions bottled up. Men aren’t encouraged to confide in friends and family the way women are, and they are often urged to be as independent as possible rather than asking for help to avoid appearing weak.

Traditional ideas about masculinity can be pervasive, even when someone is raised in an environment that doesn’t encourage those values. This makes it harder for men to recognize and express their emotions in a healthy way and ask for help when they need it. When you consider these effects, it’s no surprise that men are less likely to seek out support when they experience mental health struggles like anxiety or depression. Sadly, this also contributes to higher rates of suicide and addiction among men.

Breaking Down Men’s Mental Health Stigma

It’s important for men and women alike to work toward dismantling these stereotypes. The ideas of what a “real man” is need to change in order to encourage more openness and vulnerability regardless of gender.

If you want to break down the stigma surrounding men’s health, start by acting as a role model to others. Men can show others that it’s okay to be vulnerable and express emotions. When men are open about their own mental health struggles, especially around other guys, it can be incredibly impactful as well. Women can also do their part by pushing back on male stereotypes and providing wholehearted support for the men they know who are facing mental health difficulties.

Where to Seek Help

Breaking down stigma is an admirable goal, but it will take time. If you’re a man who is struggling with your mental health today, you may not be at a point where you feel comfortable sharing your struggles with the people in your life. But don’t let that hold you back from getting the help you need. The following are some of the mental health support and treatment options available for men:

  • Online resources: Some online mental health resources are geared specifically toward men, including HeadsUpGuys, Man Therapy, and Movember.
  • Support groups: Look for men’s mental health support groups in your area.
  • Therapy: Find a therapist who specializes in men’s mental health issues.
  • Social network: Building a strong support system of friends and family is one of the best ways to improve your mental health.
  • Crisis hotlines: For immediate help, call the SAMHSA National Helpline (1-800-622-4357) or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255).